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posted: 1/10/2018 5:33 AM

6th Dist. Democrats say climate focus should be on clean energy

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  • Democratic candidates for the party's nomination to seek the 6th District seat in Congress are, top row from left, Sean Casten, Carole Cheney, Amanda Howland and Ryan Huffman and, bottom row from left, Kelly Mazeski, Becky Anderson Wilkins and Jennifer Zordani.

    Democratic candidates for the party's nomination to seek the 6th District seat in Congress are, top row from left, Sean Casten, Carole Cheney, Amanda Howland and Ryan Huffman and, bottom row from left, Kelly Mazeski, Becky Anderson Wilkins and Jennifer Zordani.

  • Peter Roskam

    Peter Roskam

 
 

Nearly a year ago, 200 people rallied at the West Chicago office of 6th District U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, demanding he take action on climate change.

Activists questioned Roskam's record on environmental issues and pushed for him to support clean energy.

The seven Democrats who are competing in the spring primary to be his opponent in November are continuing that rallying cry, calling the Wheaton Republican a climate change denier who isn't listening to science.

Several candidates pointed out a comment from a 2006 debate, in which the College of DuPage Chronicle reported Roskam called climate change "junk science." And several of them said the nation needs to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, which President Donald Trump decided the country would exit last summer.

Roskam said in a written statement he thinks the "public's sensibility about environmental stewardship" will push companies toward practices that are more efficient and less wasteful. To reduce carbon emissions, Roskam said he wants to reduce "regulatory burdens on renewable energy sources and zero-emission energy sources like nuclear power plants."

Roskam also pointed to two climate topics on which he differs from Trump's views: the exit from the Paris agreement and the threat to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

"Being a good steward of our planet is a responsibility we all share toward future generations," he said.

Still, each candidate among Roskam's potential opponents questions his climate-related actions. Here is how the Democrats competing in the March 20 primary suggest the nation should decrease carbon emissions and slow climate change:

Ryan Huffman

A system called "cap and trade" is Huffman's preferred solution to carbon emissions.

Under a cap and trade system, the government sets a cap on how much carbon dioxide each company can emit. The government auctions or gives away permits that let companies exceed the cap by a certain amount.

"We only sell enough permits so that we cap our overall emissions as a country," said Huffman, a 31-year-old data analyst from Palatine. "We lower that cap over time."

As the cap decreases, Huffman said, companies will be forced to adjust to keep their emissions below the limit. Companies that can't reduce emissions fast enough would buy permits from other companies that have extras.

"This way, it's less of a shock to our economy," Huffman said.

To achieve the best results, Huffman said, the government should add incentives to ramp up clean energy production and decrease consumption.

Sean Casten

In 16 years as a scientist and clean energy entrepreneur, Casten, 46, of Downers Grove, said he learned "you did not have to trade off between your moral obligations to the planet and your economic obligation to your bottom line."

His clean power company balanced the two through innovation, which he said is the only proven way the country has addressed major economic problems. Innovation can work for climate change, too, Casten said -- especially if the country invests in clean energy and infrastructure.

He said the "disrupting influence of money on politics" is preventing intelligent conversations about climate change, but he aims to push forward those conversations with a focus on facts.

Kelly Mazeski

Describing herself as a "nature lady" who has led children on bird walks, taught conservation classes, worked with the Sierra Club and conducted volunteer energy and environmental outreach for President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, Mazeski said she cares about the environment.

A Barrington Hills plan commission member and former chemist, Mazeski, 58, said the nation needs to emphasize development of renewable energy sources.

"It's one of the greatest economic opportunities we've had in decades," she said. "It's a win-win. It helps with climate change and builds our economy."

Jennifer Zordani

As clean energy ramps up, there still will be times when its production is inconsistent, said Zordani, a 53-year-old regulatory and financial services attorney from Clarendon Hills.

"With the growth in technology," she said, "we're going to need ever-increasing energy supplies."

To buffer against clean energy gaps, she said, the country should connect sources like wind and solar power to the same grid as fossil fuels. This would boost the economy, help utility companies meet consumer needs and help "end users build new infrastructure and plan for the future," Zordani said.

Carole Cheney

Working for 11th District U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, a former physicist, Cheney said she learned to "stand up for science and rationality," both of which she said are necessary in climate change discussions.

"We already are seeing the negative impact of mankind's actions on our environment," she said in a written statement. "We must become less reliant on fossil fuels by expanding the use of renewable energy sources and working to build a clean energy economy."

Cheney said she supports an end to subsidies for fossil fuel companies and opposes what she calls "dangerous pipeline proposals."

Amanda Howland

Training workers to fit the eco-friendly industries of the future, such as wind and solar energy or robotics, is one environmental action Howland said she supports.

"We need to train people to take over these jobs, and that's going to help the environment," she said.

The nation also should follow the example of the College of Lake County, where Howland, a 65-year-old Lake Zurich attorney, serves as a trustee. She said the college is constructing buildings to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards and has installed a geothermal field to help with heating and cooling.

Becky Anderson Wilkins

Increasing investment in clean energy infrastructure is one way the government can address the "global crisis" of climate change, said Anderson Wilkins, a 59-year-old bookstore owner and Naperville City Council member.

"Such investments reduce our carbon footprint, employ skilled labor in jobs of the future and bring much-needed repair and modernization to our current system," she said in a written statement.

Money from fossil fuel companies, however, prevents progress on climate-related investments, Anderson Wilkins said. She has said her campaign plans not to take any contributions from what she calls "special interests."

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