Wave of green energy bills propose timetable that could threaten Illinois economy, say GOP critics
While lobbyists are busy crafting the apparent copycat green energy bills sweeping across state legislatures, Illinois conservatives are withholding support for these controversial proposals until more is understood.
Just weeks after U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled her Green New Deal, the Illinois General Assembly began considering House Bill 3624, the Clean Energy Jobs-Tech Act, and its counterpart in the Senate, SB 2132. With backing from state Rep. Mary Edly-Allen (D-Libertyville) and a band of other Democrats, the bill calls for the state to cut its dependence on fossil fuels in the coming decades in favor of renewable energy sources.
State Rep. Chris Miller (R-Robinson) and other critics cite the potential economic damage such rapid changes could bring.
“In Illinois, this basically devastates coal and oil, which is the lifeblood for jobs where we live down here,” Miller told the Lake County Gazette during a recent interview. “All this is political grandstanding to try to satisfy the green energy snobs in their district.”
Others have questioned the science behind a rapid shift toward renewable energy. Illinois Coal Association President Phil Gonet pointed out the intermittent nature of wind and solar power, and others have cast doubt on whether green energy could scale up to meet the hefty demands now fulfilled by fossil-fuel power.
“If you drive up and down I-57 or I-39 or I-55 and see all the windmills, that only amounts to [depending on the data] only 1.5 percent of the energy needed,” Miller said. “One thing they want is 25-percent reliance on renewable energy by 2025. If they reach that in five or six years, it would be a miracle.”
Specifically, the bill sets a timetable for Illinois to become carbon-free by 2030 and to rely 100 percent on renewable energy by 2050. That aggressive timetable may be a byproduct of the increasingly one-size-fits-all approach to legislation.
A 2019 USA Today study computer analyzed verbiage from thousands of bills on many topics, not just energy. The findings showed many bills on similar topics contained matching phrases, hinting at their common source.
“It appears as though there’s a special-interest group going around to states pushing this supposedly green agenda,” said state Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur). “It’s obviously politically motivated, but I don’t know why. To actually try to do it makes no sense monetarily.”
Miller pointed out that despite growing alarm in some circles over climate change, science may not back up those claims. He recalled that as a student in the 1970s, a scientific fad called for global cooling in 10 years, but a decade later, former Vice President Al Gore was leading the charge against global warming.
"Now fast forward to [Ocasio-Cortez] saying the world will end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change," Miller said. "Illinois or the world is never going to be destroyed from global cooling, global warming or climate change. The only thing going to destroy America is bad public policy that has been brought forth by all these morons."