Climate, economy color 6th District candidates' environmental views

Environmental issues top 6th Congressional District Democratic challenger Sean Casten's list of campaign priorities.

Republican incumbent Peter Roskam, meanwhile, says he tries to listen to his constituents' views on such issues and base his opinions on what they say - and on the economy.

Both candidates say they wish President Donald Trump would have let the U.S. remain a party to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to intensify actions against climate change and slow the rate of global warming. Both candidates also say it's not up to the government to micromanage which sources of energy the nation uses in the future.

But similarities on environmental perspectives end there for the opponents, who are on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election to represent the district that stretches from Naperville to Tower Lakes covering parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.

Here is how the rivals stand on a few climate questions.

How should the country decrease carbon emissions?

Emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and especially carbon dioxide are known contributors to global warming, Casten says. As a former business owner in the clean energy industry, he has plenty of ideas about how to reduce such emissions.

Casten talks about climate change in impassioned terms, saying it's an existential threat to the species that humans must work to stop.

"It is amoral, irresponsible and economically stupid to not focus on climate change," Casten said.

So he wants to create better carbon-reduction policies to help slow the pace of global warming. Casten says emissions first should be separated into three categories based on how they are generated: by creation of electricity; by heating, be it heating a house or heating coal to make steel; or by transportation.

To lower emissions created by generation of electricity or production of heat, Casten says the nation should "put a price on carbon emissions and make sure our existing rules don't disincentivize investment in energy efficiency."

Casten says the best way to lower transportation-related emissions is though policies that make it cheaper to drive electric cars or lower-emission vehicles.

Roskam, however, opposes the idea of a price or a tax on carbon. He says the best way to lower emissions is to trust American innovators to come up with cost-effective solutions in the private sector.

A carbon tax, he says, "would have a devastating impact on our district, and from an economic growth perspective, would be incredibly limiting."

"Most people in this district are interested in having the economy itself innovate remedies," Roskam said. "They're not particularly interested in a heavy hand coming from Washington, D.C., telling them how to go about things."

What sources of energy should the U.S. use?

Roskam says the nation's use of energy sources should focus on those that are produced domestically.

"That makes us less reliant on an incredibly turbulent part of the world that is the Middle East," Roskam said.

He said renewable sources all should be encouraged, but their benefits in terms of sustainability also need to be balanced with what he says are their often increased costs.

Casten supports deploying any renewable technology, as long as the electricity produced is needed. This includes wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy, "and some technologies people haven't thought of yet." But the government, he says, should set the goal of sustainable energy use without defining the path to get there.

"If we recognize that the goal is getting carbon down as quickly as possible and as cheaply as possible, and we set policies accordingly," Casten said, "then the business community will figure out how to allocate capital."

What are their other environmental priorities?

Casten points to a recent report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to explain why he says now is the time to address climate change. The report found drastic actions will be necessary for the world to prevent a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels, which is one of the goals in the 2015 Paris agreement.

The report should serve to as "a wake-up call that we have to get carbon down as quickly as possible," he said. "We have 10 years to get climate under control."

Roskam's environmental goals include continuing funding for protection of the Great Lakes and promoting open space.

He said he joined others in pushing for full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative when Trump's proposed budget would have cut it. The program, created in 2010, coordinates federal agencies to push for safe water for drinking and recreation, fish safe to eat, elimination of harmful algae blooms, control of invasive species and protection of native habitats.

Roskam also said he worked to allow the creation of permanent conservation easements, which allow land owners to gain "favorable tax treatment" by designating that their properties should remain open in perpetuity.

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Sean Casten, Democratic candidate for the 6th U.S. Congressional District, explains his focus on slowing climate change during a campaign stop this summer. Daily Herald file photo June 2018
Daily Herald file photo May 2018U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, visits with West suburban business leaders during a campaign stop this spring. He says he thinks the best course toward reducing carbon emissions is to allow "the economy itself innovate remedies."
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