POINT: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan
Reducing carbon pollution will be a boost to businesses — and good for our lives
By LAUREN PATTAN and JAMES ROGALSKY
Every businessperson knows that a worthy investment sometimes takes a fair deal of risk. If you can manage the risks, you can create a great business.
We own the Old Bakery Beer Company in Alton, and when it comes to the beer business, there are several big risks that we face. One of the most pressing concerns for our beer and our business is climate disruption, which is a major risk that requires immediate action.
Released just this past month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan is a comprehensive strategy to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and address climate disruption. The Clean Power Plan offers the state of Illinois a tremendous opportunity to modernize how it gets its energy while creating jobs and cutting carbon pollution.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this July was the hottest month on record since records began 136 years ago. Here in Illinois, we’ve already been hard-hit by the impacts of climate disruption. These impacts include damaging droughts, floods and high ozone alert days, which keep our children indoors and fill emergency rooms with people suffering respiratory distress.
Now as a brewery, how does climate change impact our business?
Two of the primary ingredients in beer, hops and barley, are both sensitive plants, susceptible to extreme weather, drought and changes in micro-climates. Barley is already a high risk plant to grow, which can be discouraging to many farmers. Climate disruption could potentially make it even more difficult to make living growing barley, which will lead farmers to switch their fields to corn, a much easier, more profitable and less risky crop to grow. Hops only thrive in very specific climate conditions, and any potential changes to these micro-climates pose a threat to the integrity of future hop harvests. Without consistent, high-quality and affordable access to these ingredients, the entire beer industry is at risk.
Access to clean and plentiful water is vital to concocting the best brew possible for our customers. Carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants — like the Wood River power plant right next to Alton — is the leading contributor to climate disruption. Coal ash waste and water usage from the coal plant threatens our water today, and the carbon pollution from the plant threatens the availability of water for years to come.
Illinois extreme weather and changing climate patterns will affect the state’s agricultural economy, and create high costs associated with cleaning up climate-related weather disasters. At Old Bakery Beer Company, we’re proud to use 100 percent American, USDA-certified organic ingredients in our beer; it’s what makes our beer great. When we see drought and flooding making food prices higher, we feel the impact and know it threatens everyone from businesses like ours to seniors and families trying to make ends meet. This instability costs Illinois businesses, and will continue to cost us more if we do not take action.
We’re now well aware of what’s at stake, but the good news is that we have solutions today in Illinois that will preserve our businesses — and our beer — while creating new jobs and powering Illinois into the future.
The release of the U.S. Clean Power Plan increases the urgency for state lawmakers to pass The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, legislation pending in the General Assembly that would enable Illinois to meet the Clean Power Plan’s goals while offering the state a long list of economic and public health benefits. The bill (SB1485/HB2607), introduced earlier this year in Springfield, would boost the share of energy Illinois generates from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to 35 percent by 2030, while doubling energy efficiency by 2025 and setting up a market-based revenue stream to cap carbon pollution and protect communities.
The proposed market-based approach in the bill will help reduce carbon pollution in a cost-effective manner while creating clean energy jobs in every Illinois community. Most importantly, it will create revenue for coal communities and low-income communities to use to invest in for workforce development and direct bill assistance for consumers.
Climate change is a threat to every industry and the entire economy, and we’re just a tiny little piece of the whole puzzle. At Old Bakery Beer Company, we’ve taken small actions like making our facility more efficient while honoring the historic value of our building by installing better lighting and energy efficient appliances and mechanical systems. We’re proud of all we do to run a sustainable business, but the threat of climate disruption demands big action. That is why we support the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill and urge our local state lawmakers to do the same.
Our local lawmakers — Sen. William Haine and Rep. Dan Beiser — have an opportunity to join legislators from across the state and across party lines to pass a bill that could increase energy efficiency, fix our broken renewable portfolio standard to work better for Illinois workers and create an estimated 1,607 clean energy jobs in our region annually. If Gov. Rauner and our lawmakers are looking for ways to bring business to Illinois, the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill should give them reason to raise a glass of Illinois beer in support.
Lauren Pattan and James Rogalsky are owners of Old Bakery Beer Company in Alton.