The Link Between Energy Usage and the Illinois Environment. Robert J. Finley, and David L. Thomas, Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois Natural History Survey, Department of Natural Resources, Champaign, Illinois 61820

Part 1. A Primer on Illinois Energy

Illinois ranks fifth in total energy consumption and in population in the nation with 12.4 million people (2000) consuming about 4.1 percent of U.S. energy supplies (1999). Illinois energy usage presents some important contrasts with other states.

Illinois' natural gas use ranks the state first in per capita residential consumption, second in total residential consumption, and third in total commercial consumption. Illinois is second in the nation in natural gas storage capacity and is becoming a major hub for natural gas distribution and Canadian imports. There is very limited production of natural gas in Illinois, although the potential to produce coalbed methane is being actively investigated.

In electricity generation, Illinois ranks fifth, after Texas, California, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Between 1990 and 1999, growth in residential, commercial, and industrial electricity consumption in Illinois was below the national average. Illinois was a net exporter of electricity in 1998. Since 1998, substantial new electric generation capacity has been added, almost exclusively in the form of natural gas turbine, peak-load power plants. Illinois' nuclear-fueled generation capacity accounted for 42 percent of electricity supplies in 1999, more than twice the national fraction of 20 percent for nuclear electric generation. Illinois' total and per capita emissions of CO2 associated with electric generation are lower than other nearby states because of this nuclear capacity.

Illinois coal production, 33.4 million tons in 2000, is mostly of moderate to high sulfur. Thus, under clean air regulations, coal production in Illinois has declined relative to low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal that can be utilized without scrubbers. Illinois has substantial bituminous coal resources remaining and therefore could benefit from new coal combustion technologies that allow cleaner burning of coal or combinations of coal, biomass, and methane.

While containing abundant coal, the Illinois Basin is mature with respect to production of oil and the state produces only 4 percent of its oil needs. While a large resource remains in the ground in Illinois, oil price fluctuations over the last decade have hurt the small independent oil producers in Illinois. Motor gasoline, the largest single product of oil refining, has been impacted by price fluctuations related to world oil prices, reduced Illinois refining capacity, pipeline capacity availability, and conversion to new reformulated gasoline. Illinois' consumption of motor gasoline grew 12.9 percent between 1990 and 1999 while consumption at the national level grew 17.8 percent. However, growth in total petroleum use in Illinois was 4 percent above the national average for the same period, driven primarily by consumption of aviation jet fuel.

With respect to current use of renewables, Illinois generates about 168 Mw of electricity from hydropower and landfill gas as of January 1999, amounting to less than 1 percent of generating capacity. Ethanol production in Illinois amounts to a growing part of the 1.4 billion gallons of annual production in the U.S. New ethanol production capacity is being planned for development as MTBE is phased out in numerous states and ethanol is required to meet gasoline oxygenate demand. Wind and solar power in Illinois remain largely untapped.

II. Environmental Effects of Energy Use and Production in Illinois

A large direct environmental impact from energy use by the consumer comes from the burning of gasoline in automobiles. This is primarily in the form of air pollution, including a major contribution to occasional high ozone levels in our urban areas. But the primary environmental effects of our increasing energy use result from the need for increased energy production. Whether it is a refinery for making our gasoline or an electric generating station producing our electrical power, all forms of energy production in Illinois have some impact on the environment. Some common impacts pertinent to most forms of energy production include the siting of facilities, fuel and water usage, discharges to both the air and water, waste disposal, transmission right-of-ways, and transportation of fuels and other materials.

Our base electrical generation in Illinois comes from nuclear, coal, oil and gas, and each of these facilities have some common impacts to the environment. Water usage is large for once-through cooling and the impacts on aquatic systems stem from impingement of organisms on water intake screens, entrainment of small organisms through the plant and thermal effects in the receiving waters. Air emissions can also potentially cause environmental effects, and tend to be most significant for coal-fired facilities. Each facility also generates waste materials which have to be disposed of, generally off site. Life-cycle environmental effects would include examining the effects of mining of raw materials (coal, oil, gas, uranium), processing, transportation, use within the generating facility to produce power and the ultimate disposal of waste.

Base power plants usually need peaking facilities to provide energy during peak times of power demand. These facilities also have their own impacts, whether they are pumped-storage facilities which have been used to supplement nuclear power production, or gas fired turbines, combined cycle and co-generation units. Water usage for the latter facilities could be significant issues in Illinois, particularly the northeastern part of the state where both ground and surface waters have many competing demands on them.

Other forms of energy production also have their separate impacts on the environment. Hydro power comes from a renewable source but dams create habitat fragmentation for aquatic species, downstream flow needs have to be met for aquatic organisms, and there may be turbine mortalities to entrained organisms. Water quality is changed by the presence of dams and the discharges of water. Even solar and wind power can use a substantial amount of land, and wind turbines can lead to mortalities of insects and birds.

Linear environmental effects occur through the creation of transmission right-of-ways, and natural gas and gasoline pipelines. The latter if ruptured can cause environmental impacts in the area of the spills and costly cleanups. Refining of oil has significant environmental effects, and refineries are one of the larger emitters of air pollutants.

There is no free lunch when it comes to environmental effects concerning our energy production to meet our growing energy needs. Each state will have to evaluate the environmental and social tradeoffs that come with various forms of energy production, and the needs to maintain a mix of generating capacity.

Back to the Energy Conference