350 Chicago Newsletter
Wind turbines in the windy city, electric appliances, and how you can lower your carbon footprint. Let’s get into it.
IL Considering Bill To Install Wind Turbines In Lake Michigan
By Rich Foss
In an effort to transition from fossil fuels, Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill to install wind turbines in Lake Michigan. The plan seeks to install up to 24 turbines 15 miles offshore, from the Illinois International Port District on 95th Street on the Southeast side of Chicago. The legislation would use federal funds from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to encourage wind power development by private companies.
The state of Illinois needs to add renewable capacity to the electrical grid as it seeks to phase out coal and natural gas. Offshore wind power could be a significant source: The U.S. Department of Energy estimated in 2014 that the Great Lakes have the potential to produce 6 GW of energy — enough to power about 4.5 million homes.
The bill is pushed by state Senator Robert Peters and state Rep. Marcus Evans. “This is a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of something,” Peters has told community members, describing it as the “Rust Belt to Green Belt.” Lawmakers and supporters of the bill, like Chynna Hampton, equity director for Climate Jobs Illinois, promise union jobs and job training for Southeast Chicago residents.
Not all community members near the proposed site are convinced that a nearby wind farm would benefit them. Community organizers have argued that any developer must be required to sign a development agreement that offers explicit benefits to residents.
Chicago Ordinance Supports Electric Appliances in New Residences
By Rich Foss
The city of Chicago’s recently passed 2022 Energy Transformation Code will support the transition from natural gas to electric appliances in residential buildings, although it does not go nearly as far as rules in New York and Los Angeles that ban gas appliances in most new buildings. Natural gas, once perceived to be a cleaner alternative to coal, creates CO2 emissions and also leaks methane, a greenhouse gas 40 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The Mayor’s office has touted its Code as a major victory that could lead to a “40% improvement in energy efficiency.” The code requires that new construction be “electric ready,” by wiring new homes to accommodate electric appliances such as water heaters, stoves, and clothes dryers. This makes it easier and cheaper to switch to climate-saving electric appliances. Addressing buildings emissions is critical for large cities; according to managing deputy commissioner of the Buildings Department, Grant Ulrich, 70% of carbon emissions in the city come from buildings and commercial enterprises.
Yet Chicago’s ordinance stopped short of banning natural gas in most new buildings, as New York City did in an ordinance passed at the end of 2021. Chicago has its work cut out if it wants to catch up with its peer cities.
THIS EDITION’S 350 CHICAGO TIP!
By Carter Robinson
ComEd customers wanting to lower their personal carbon footprint will be happy to learn that they can receive a free energy assessment. This assessment can be done in your home or virtually.
During the assessment, the ComEd Advisor will look for ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. The advisor can also install energy saving products, such as LED lights, smart thermostats, efficient shower heads, hot water pipe insulation, and advanced power strips. These products are either free or discounted, depending on your eligibility. Don’t forget to ask your advisor questions to make sure you benefit from all relevant offerings!
You can learn more and sign up on ComEd’s website (under ‘Ways to Save’), or you can call 855-433-2700. You’ll need your ComEd account number to sign up; if you are a renter, your landlord may need to request the assessment.
Meet A Member: Ricardo Pierre-Louis
Today’s featured member is Ricardo Pierre-Louis. Ricardo is the Illinois Green New Deal Liaison (ILGND) for 350 Chicago. He’s also part of the newsletter team and divestment coalition.*
“I'd like to be part of the community of people that did something…” – Ricardo Pierre-Louis
How long have you been involved with 350 Chicago? I've been with 350 for a little over a year and during that time I've protested, phone banked, and met some great people.
Which part of 350 Chicago’s work are you most involved with? I'm most involved with the Divestment Coalition and the ILGND Coalition. I help out where I can, by helping promote climate actions, being present at the protests, and designing the website. My hope is that I can fill in the gaps and help the organization where it needs it most.
What's your favorite thing about working with 350 Chicago? I appreciate being around action-oriented people. Many people find it too challenging to confront an issue as momentous as climate change, but 350 is full of folks that aren't afraid to look the beast in the eye.
What turned you into a climate activist? There's a general malaise around planning for the future among people. What's the point in planning for a day that might not exist, they say. While I understand nihilism, it's not a philosophy I intend to embrace. Given a short-term, individualistic way of thinking, it becomes impossible to believe in any change, anything greater than oneself. But if you were to look at history, it took communities of people that believed in a long-term vision, that aimed to solve problems they'd never reap the benefits of, for us to be here today. I'd like to be part of the community of people that did something, rather than succumb to the numbness that's become more and more common these days.
What's one climate action you've taken that you're proud of? I'm proud of the protest we held at the federal reserve in 2021. It wasn't a large event, perhaps only a couple hundred showed up due to rain, and it may not even have been one of our more successful ones. But I'm proud of that event because it was full of strong-willed people that showed up on a rainy afternoon to speak out against the evils of fossil fuel financing. I understand not every climate action will translate directly to tangible success, but events like that are important for keeping the fire of the fight alive.
Early bird or night owl? I used to be a night owl because it was when I did my best work, but now I'm a morning person because I've treasured my leisure more than my labor.
Night out or night in? Definitely night in, it's too expensive out there.
Clean freak or stuff everywhere? Stuff everywhere, my desk looks like a madman's.
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla, but I can appreciate both.
Cats or dogs? Dogs, they're the sweetest.
Salty or sweet? My sweet tooth is so bad I have to hide candy from myself.
*Answers lightly edited for length/clarity.
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