11/11/2013 09:06 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Carbon Limits Will Spur Innovation -- Again

The following is my testimony at Friday's EPA listening session on carbon limits for power plants:

Thank you for coming to Illinois to listen to our strong support for climate action, and our experiences so far in moving to clean energy. Since Illinois set renewable energy targets in 2007, we have seen tremendous benefits that give us a sense of what the future can look like if we act on climate change and prioritize clean energy.

As a direct result of our decision to promote clean power, Illinois has seen over 20,000 jobs created in renewable energy, during a very difficult recession. Diversifying our power supply reduced wholesale power prices by $177 million dollars a year. And finally, we have cut carbon emissions by 5 million tons -- the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the road.

So we know first hand that moving to clean energy can create jobs, save consumers money, and clean the air.

We have also seen, here in the Midwest, how important regulating carbon emissions can be in creating jobs and retaining our industrial base. Five years ago, we all remember that our auto industry, a cornerstone of this region's economy, was on the brink of collapse. Then, EPA spurred innovation by limiting carbon emission from our cars. In short order, carbon limits on cars led to innovation that produced a whole new generation of vehicles that Americans, and people across the globe, want to buy. Jobs were saved, and shifts and product lines were added at plants around our region, including Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant, where the EcoBoost engine powers police vehicles sold across the country. Five years after EPA imposed carbon limits on cars, the industry is growing faster than it has in 50 years.

The power supply sector is ripe for this kind of turnaround approach. Here in Illinois, much of our coal fleet is in bankruptcy, or losing money. Most plants do not have modern pollution controls, and communities are concerned about the demonstrated health impacts they are suffering. The status quo isn't working for anyone.

By setting carbon limits on power plants, EPA can again spur innovation in cleaner technologies of the future. It can build, in a big way, on the gains we have already seen from renewable energy investments so far. It can create jobs, and help position Midwest manufacturers as global leaders in the cleantech supply chain. And of course, it can finally make the deep cuts in global warming pollution that scientists are urgently telling us are absolutely necessary if we are to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

Again, thank you for coming to the Midwest as you prepare your response to climate change. We all win when we move to clean energy, but here in the Midwest we have perhaps the most to gain by moving forward, and the most to lose if we do not.

You can have your say by emailing EPA at