Building a Healthier, Cleaner and More Prosperous Illinois

Ald. George A. Cardenas
Ald. George A. Cardenas

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s we progress into the 21st century, we must create avenues for a healthier economy and community. Clean energy and green technology both create jobs and improve our healths.

As chairman of the Committee on Health and Environmental Protection, I’ve seen the devastating effects pollution has on our communities. According to the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, poor air quality caused by traffic congestion and energy consumption is responsible for more than 100 premature deaths per year in Chicago. And asthma hospitalization rates in Chicago are frighteningly bad—nearly double that of the national average. The news is worse for people of color, with asthma rates four to six times higher for African-Americans and Hispanics.

We need real action to combat this problem. And that is why I’ve enthusiastically endorsed the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill (S.B. 1485/H.B. 2607), which currently has more than 120 clean energy companies calling for its passage.

This state legislation increases our utilities’ commitment to energy efficiency by reducing overall electricity usage in Illinois by 20 percent over the next 10 years. Simply put, energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest form of energy we have, because it’s the energy we don’t use.

By retrofitting our homes, businesses, schools and hospitals with tools such as better insulation, newer windows and lighting, we can accomplish the same amount of work and use less energy. That saves money on energy bills, while cutting pollution from power plants. According to a recent analysis by the Citizens Utility Board, the average Illinois resident would save approximately $100 a year on their electric bills through the increased energy efficiency measures in the Clean Jobs Bill.

Even better, energy efficiency also puts thousands of people to work. Multiple studies have shown that the Clean Jobs Bill will put tens of thousands of people to work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Midwestern 2015 report, the construction industry in Chicago added 11,900 jobs this year, which does not include the new opportunities for employment under the Clean Jobs Bill. A report from Forbes listed Chicago as having 18,000 green jobs at any time; and now is the time to increase our commitment to clean energy job creation. The Clean Jobs Bill is the only proposed energy bill that will put an average of 32,000 people to work each year in Illinois.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill also calls for the increased use of renewable energy like wind and solar from our current standard of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 to 35 percent by 2030. By giving renewable energy developers long-term market certainty, we are sending a signal and putting out the welcome mat for renewable energy companies to invest in our communities.

It’s about health, healthier people, less burdened by dangerous pollution, and healthier communities with more jobs and more money to spend thanks to lower electric bills.

I urge the Illinois General Assembly to pass the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, so we can continue to build a cleaner energy future here in Chicago, and across Illinois.

-Ald. George A. Cardenas, 12th Ward

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