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Environmental Protection & Preservation

Illinois Global Warming Pollution Up Steeply Since 1990

Carbon dioxide emissions from Illinois sources jumped 32.8 million metric tons between 1990 and 2001, making Illinois the nation's 6th largest emitter of this primary global warming pollutant, according to "The Carbon Boom," a new analysis of government data released today by Environment Illinois.

"Reversing this trend should be a top priority for our state. It's imperative that our economy get on a track that is consistent with, and not at odds with protecting future generations from global warming," said Environment Illinois Director Rebecca Stanfield.

Using data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Environment Illinois's new report examines trends in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel combustion nationally and by state. Major findings of the report include:
  • Nationwide, emissions of carbon dioxide nearly doubled between 1960 and 2001, jumping from 2.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 1960 to almost 5.7 billion metric tons in 2001, an increase of 95 percent.
  • Illinois emits 224.7 million metric tons of CO2 per year, ranking 6th among states, behind Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.
  • Coal combustion accounts for 40% of Illinois's CO2 emissions, while oil combustion accounts for 37% and natural gas combustion accounts for 23% of Illinois's CO2 emissions.
  • Trends: Illinois CO2 emissions rose steeply in the 1970s, then declined in the 1980s, and rose steeply again in the 1990s. Overall, emissions are up 21% since 1960, and 17% since 1990.
  • Illinois's CO2 emissions increased by 32.8 million metric tons between 1990 and 2001. Only Texas, Florida and North Carolina experienced a larger pollution increase during that decade.
"We've waited long enough for the federal government to take action," said State Representative Julie Hamos of Evanston. "This report is not only a wake-up call, but also offers direct steps that the state should take to reduce global warming pollution."

"Illinois can and must do better in reducing CO2 emissions to protect public health," said State Representative Paul Froehlich of Schaumberg. "We should lead rather than lag behind the nation when it comes to setting tighter standards."

Each day the threat of global warming comes into sharper focus, as new reports of its consequences hit the airwaves. According to NASA, 2005 was the warmest year on record. From melting ice caps to rising sea levels, persistent drought and more frequent and severe storms, the unmistakable signs of a warming planet are now impossible to miss. Scientists are warning that unless we begin to reduce the amount of global warming pollution we emit, the planet we leave our children could be dramatically different from the one we know today.

"When you start to have hurricanes developing in the Gulf of Mexico in June, temperatures 10-14 degrees above normal in Illinois in January, less and less snow each year in the Midwest, and 19 of the warmest 20 years since 1880 occurring in the last 25 begin to sit back and look at your weather maps differently...." said FOX Meteorologist Rick DiMaio. "We need to start asking some tougher questions and start getting more people aware of the potential problems."

Several states have responded to this challenge by getting started with concrete, achievable steps that can be used as models for Illinois. For example, New Mexico has set a goal of returning emissions to 2000 levels by the year 2012, 10 percent below 2000 levels by 2020 and to 75 percent below 2000 levels by 2050. California has similar goals. Eight states have set emission caps for their electric power industry to reduce by 10% by 2019. Ten states have adopted automobile standards for global warming pollution.

"With our vast agricultural and technological resources, Illinois should be a leader in reducing CO2 emissions," said State Senator Don Harmon of Oak Park. "It is imperative that we take a leadership role in promoting flexible fuel options. It's ludicrous to continue our dependence on foreign oil when we can both mitigate our oil-dependence and significantly diminish CO2 emissions using soybeans and corn -- products which Illinois has in abundance -- as well as wind and solar resources."

We have the technologies to reverse the trend of increasing global warming pollution, but deployment of these technologies has lagged in Illinois. For example, the U.S. DOE estimates that we have enough high-quality wind power potential to provide electricity for 2 million Illinoisans, most of which has not been developed. Similarly, Illinois has invested less than many states in energy efficiency technologies that would reduce the amount of power we need for our homes and businesses. Solar energy potential and advanced vehicle technologies are also available and largely underutilized.

"Using the sun to heat water is the simplest, most efficient and affordable use of solar energy in Illinois. Over 20% of natural gas for homes and apartments is used to heat water," said Brandon Leavitt, a Renewable Energy Specialist who operates a business called Solar Service, Inc. "Using solar can reduce those energy costs by 70% while creating sustainable jobs and a healthier environment. Generous state and federal incentives can provide over half the cost of installing solar water heaters."

Sharon Feigon, the Director of Chicago's successful non-profit I-Go Car Sharing program talked about the program's success at lowering pollution from motor vehicles.

"At I-GO, we have found that 56% of our members either give up a car or postpone a decision to buy a car after they participate in our program. Our members have already helped remove 1400 cars from Chicago roads. When there are viable alternatives, Americans will respond. "

Environment Illinois also applauds Illinois Senator Richard Durbin for his leadership on global warming solutions. Senator Durbin is curculating a letter in the U.S. Senate urging President Bush to support real reductions in global warming pollution.

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