Ford and GM are rapidly revising to make cleaner cars for Americans to drive and export. For example, Ford builds Hybrid Explorers, Lincoln Aviators and Police Interceptors at its Chicago assembly plant, as well as a battery-electric transit van in Missouri. GM plans to hire 3,000 engineers and technicians to bring 20 new electric vehicles to market.
Rivian and Navistar in Illinois and Cummins, Indiana make cleaner electric vehicles and more energy-efficient engines.
In terms of clean energy, the Environmental Law & Policy Center's supply chain reports have identified solar and wind power companies in the Midwest, including local installers and manufacturing facilities that make wind turbine blades and polysilicon for solar panels. ELPC identified 450 renewable energy supply chain companies in Illinois, 110 solar and wind energy companies in Iowa, 241 in Minnesota, and 354 in Wisconsin.
This creates local jobs and new opportunities for exporting equipment and technical expertise. These manufacturers, developers, installers, and professional service companies operate in nearly every congressional district in the Midwest Congressional and state legislative district.
Illinois and the Midwest are ground zero in the fight against climate change and in accelerating smart solutions. Our region is the country's transportation hub and manufacturing hub, and we are the country's largest concentration of old, highly polluting coal-fired power plants. We should be the linchpin between clean energy and transport innovations that are good for the environment and the economy together.
Let's face it – our communities are facing the challenges of climate change, from record high water levels in the Great Lakes to more extreme weather events such as harmful “derecho” thunderstorms, devastating floods and tornadoes.
The Environmental Law & Policy Center hired 18 leading scientists from the Midwest and Canada to write the latest report on the effects of climate change on the Great Lakes. It's not a pretty picture: more flooding on the lake shore, poisonous algal blooms choking our water, invasive species and impacts on crop yields.
A recent report by the US House of Representatives subcommittee showed that meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement could prevent 253,000 emergency admissions and hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and 227,000 premature deaths in the next 50 years – in Illinois alone. The total economic value of the health benefits of climate action in Illinois would exceed $ 1.8 trillion.
President Trump's administration has done environmental damage and left a lot of work to be done. Midwesterners are practical people who try to come up with solutions. We face difficult challenges. We did the job.
We now have a president who prioritizes solutions to climate change, values sound science, and puts “protection” back in the US Environmental Protection Agency to achieve healthier, cleaner air and safer clean water for all. President Biden declared Wednesday, January 27th, Climate Day. Illinois and the Midwest welcome the return of the federal government to these much-needed tasks.
Howard A. Learner is the Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.