A light of hope went out last week

Opinion: Columns

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By Jim Dickert

A light of hope for our planet, however small, was snuffed out one night last week by a $4 per month charge.

For two years, Oak Park was a model of success for sustainable, non-polluting energy. In 2012, Oak Park residents, by virtue of their village trustees, adopted an Illinois Community Choice Aggregation program for the purchase of 100% renewable electric energy. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website, Oak Park became "the first municipality in Illinois and possibly the nation to choose an all-green power portfolio standard for its residents and small business operators. … One of the biggest benefits accrued to the village of Oak Park through its aggregation program was a sense of community pride not only for committing to a purchase of 100 percent local wind renewable energy certificates (RECs) that will reduce local emissions by 171,000 metric tons of CO2 per year but also for leading hundreds of other municipalities to start aggregation programs, many of whom also requested rates for 100 percent renewable energy portfolios."

Dear reader, please note: "One of the biggest benefits … was a sense of community pride." Yes! Community pride!

But last week that pride turned, for me, to shame, as the village board decided against purchasing 100% renewable electric energy for electricity generated from coal-fired plants.

We all know that world-wide burning of coal and oil (fossil fuels) is causing the crisis of global warming. If this warming continues at the current rate, scientists predict the collapse of ice sheets, a rapid rise in sea levels, difficulty growing enough food, massive die-offs of forests, and mass extinctions of plant and animal species. And that rise in sea levels and problems growing enough food will affect the poor who are not the cause of the warming and are least able to deal with its effects.

So, Oak Parkers, as we drop the muffin into the toaster, turn on our massive TV with surround-sound, and light and air-condition our ample houses and condos, we can think about how we are contributing to warming the planet. 

According to a report of the meeting, the village board decided that an average increase of $4 a month for 100% green energy would not be acceptable to you and me. You and me who have so much!

In order to make the big changes that are needed to stop global warming, communities, cities, states and nations must act. Individual acts alone are not enough. 

That is why two years ago, Oak Park was the little light of hope. It was until that one night last week! Now with that little light gone, I, for one, feel covered by a cloud of despair. 

If a thinking community like Oak Park cannot make even a small sacrifice to help avoid planetary warming, then what are we as moral human beings?

Reader Comments

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Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 2:57 AM

@Bill, here is a link re: RECs to answer your question of where the money goes. And while the CUB supports a consumer's right to purchase RECs, CUB says, "RECs shouldn't distract from the best way to help the environment and cut your electric bill: Reducing your electricity consumption, or moving your electricity demand to off-peak hours." http://www.citizensutilityboard.org/ciElectric_RECs.

Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2014 8:22 PM

I'm becoming skeptical about the efficacy of Renewable Energy Credits. Nowhere in any of the multiple articles and hundreds of comments has anyone been able to describe where the money goes or how Oak Park's decision to not offset our energy consumption with RECs makes the world less green. Seems like a lot of emotional posturing.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: April 21st, 2014 2:20 PM

still 30% more is worse than the extra $13 a month that I'm paying in federal, state and local taxes off of a $60 bill for a cell phone. Which is in itself ridiculous. I swear this state makes it look like they pay well (in the chicagoland area) but they take it away with the other hand in taxes and fees.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: April 21st, 2014 2:15 PM

lets not forget we are already paying an extra $4 a month per person (as of 2011) in the US for green energy in the way of tax dollars going to subsidies. $16b / 316m people in the us / 12 months in a year. (http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/07/news/economy/energy-subsidies/) so if i currently pay about $30 a month for green electric, $4 of which is currently subsidized and add another $5 for increased costs... now I'm paying almost 30% more for GE.

Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2014 9:00 AM

It is easy to posture and say you have $5 a month for the environment. Big Deal. What is being advocated is the right of one set of greens to set green policy for all of Oak Park. Before the emotions take over, the citizens deserve an explanation of the benefits of the RECs we will be buying. And what they were under Integrys. WJ are you there? A good article: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2010/01/green-power-scam

Jeffrey Jon Smith from Oak Park   

Posted: April 20th, 2014 5:13 PM

Interesting that the supporters of the Village Boards midnight energy switch won't use their real names with their posts -- is that because they work for Comed -- or the Koch Brothers?

Jeffrey Jon Smith from Oak Park   

Posted: April 20th, 2014 5:08 PM

Are outside parities influencing these recent decisions by the Oak Park Village Board. This smells, and not in a nice way.

Next Answer to Next Question from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2014 1:29 PM

Hopefully the govt bodies in town will choose the least expensive energy choice, seeing as that's their job.

Next Question from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2014 7:42 AM

Now that we have direction on how to individually remain Green what option will Village Hall, D200, D97, and the Park District choose? Combined they are the largest energy users in the Village, I would like to know what will happen next! Will they stick to their original argument or will they opt for the Green? Start popping the popcorn and stay tuned...

Jim Dickert from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2014 12:41 AM

Sorry. I need to correct my last post: The current agreement is an "OPT OUT" for green. The plan is still, essentially, a "brown" one. The Village as a whole must choose 100% green, not "OPT OUT" for it.

Jim Dickert from Oak Park  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 11:46 PM

This new agreement with Constellation does not change the essense of the Village's original plan that was so much praised. The Village originally chose 100% green energy with an "opt out" provision. The current agreement is an "opt in" for green. The plan is still, essentially, a "brown" one. The Village as a whole must choose 100% green, not "opt in" for it. The current Board's decision and this agreement is depressing.

Adam Salzman from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 10:28 PM

Here's how it will work: By the end of this week, beginning of next, you will get a notice from our new energy provider, Constellation Energy. All the info you need will be on one sheet of paper with two columns. In the right hand column toward the bottom there will be a green box that states that you can opt for 100 per cent renewable energy at a price of 7.57 cents per kilowatt hour. There will be a phone number listed below that information. All you have to do is call the number to opt for 100 per cent green power. (The Integrys rate that the board rejected was 7.9 cents per kilowatt hour.)

Adam Salzman from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 6:10 PM

Green Energy Update: Village staff has been successful in reaching an agreement with Constellation to promote an all green energy option to residents in addition to the main Constellation bid. When residents receive information about the Constellation brown plan, they will also receive information about a Constellation green option. That green option is cheaper than the Integrys bid.


Posted: April 16th, 2014 2:12 AM

In fact, if Oak Park had adopted renewable energy aggregation 10 years earlier, Hurricane Katrina would not have happened.

Mary Unbehauen Rodrigo from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 1:54 AM

Instead of bludgeoning with words those that agree with the board on this issue you have an opportunity to try and influence your fellow Oak Parkers to opt out. Yet, you are not happy unless you force everyone to feel as you do. You lost my vote.

Mr Green Jeans from Oak Park  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 12:03 AM

Yes, imagine how cold it would be this April 15th (30 degrees as I type) if the planet wasn't burning up! The caterwauling over this truly insignificant move by the VOP is amusing. "Green" is this generation's golden calf. A false idol...

Brian White from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 10:34 PM

Great Article! I was really proud of the decision to purchase 100% (REC'S) Renewable Energy Certificates, now we must show the board that this was unacceptable! Today I was at "Green Tuesday's," a set of sustainability meetings held at the Oak Park public library and found out through one of the city board members, nthat there is a board meeting Monday the 21st, at 7:30pm. Anyone who lives in Oak Park should come out and express their feelings regarding this decision!

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