Energy secretary: Work at Fermilab key to fighting climate change
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was joined Friday by a delegation of Illinois Democrats as she toured the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia to tout how it can fight climate change.
The visit followed Thursday stops at the University of Illinois Laboratories and Energy Farm, a community solar project in Kankakee, and the Braidwood nuclear power plant in Braceville.
The statewide tour is part of an effort to highlight the benefits Illinois and the suburbs will see from the new infrastructure law, as well as bolster support for President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan, a $1.9 trillion spending bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in November. The legislation focuses on a wide array of issues, including education, labor, child care, health care, taxes, immigration and the environment.
Granholm, who has visited 16 of the 17 national laboratories, said Fermilab "is so utterly impressive and mind-blowing. The investment here in research and technology will cause the world to come here and use the tools and the equipment that are being developed here -- it will make Illinois a leader, it'll make this lab a leader."
Granholm was joined on the visit Friday by Sen. Dick Durbin, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, suburban U.S. Reps. Sean Casten, Bill Foster and Lauren Underwood, and Rep. Bobby Rush from Chicago, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee's Energy subcommittee.
The common theme of comments by Granholm, Durbin and Pritzker was climate change.
Durbin called climate change an "existential crisis" for the United States, akin to when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. He said the Build Back Better bill has "so many things that can be transformational, not just for the United States but for the world."
Pritzker characterized climate change as "maybe the most urgent emergency we have ever faced." He touted Illinois as the only Midwest state to commit to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045.
"What Illinois is poised to do in the energy sector was already groundbreaking," Pritzker said. "But add the Biden-Harris infrastructure investment and jobs act into the mix, and the potential for innovation reaches new heights."
Granholm said work at Fermi and other national labs is key to fighting climate change.
"The clean energy technologies coming out of all of our labs are critical to us combating the existential threat" of climate change, she said, citing work on next-generation versions of solar panels, electric vehicle batteries and storage for clean energy.
"The investment that has been supported by this delegation and by this president is critical to make sure the United States stays at the forefront of competitiveness," Granholm said. "That kind of next-generation technology is what the president envisions when he wants to invest in American and Build Back Better."