14th District Candidates Back Green Energy but Far Apart on Climate Change

The Daily Herald

14th district congressional candidate Lauren Underwood at Mount Saint Mary Park in Saint Charles.

/Brian Hill

James Fuller

Both candidates for the 14th Congressional District support the pursuit of green energy, but climate change is a different story.

Incumbent Republican Randy Hultgren has a polar opposite perspective from his Democratic challenger, Lauren Underwood, when it comes to what’s fueling climate change and steps taken to address it so far.

Hultgren joined the bipartisan, 74-member Climate Solutions Caucus in April. The mission of the caucus is to explore economically-viable options to “reduce climate risk” and work on legislation that can “address the impacts, causes and challenges of our changing climate” and also receive bipartisan support when it comes time for a vote.

In announcing his admission into the caucus, Hultgren pointed to his interest in modernizing Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab, and giving Illinois’ communities choices in where their energy comes from as his motivation. St. Charles’ work with the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency to bring solar power to the area is a prime example of creating such choice.

In written interviews subsequent to the caucus announcement, Hultgren indicated he is not on board with all the stances his new caucus members take when it comes to climate change. For one, the caucus pushed President Donald Trump to maintain the United States’ commitment to the Paris climate accord. Hultgren does not support that agreement.

“I don’t support climate change policies that place American workers behind the rest of the world,” Hultgren said. “The Paris agreement hurt American workers and allowed Chinese factories to keep polluting at extremely high levels.”

Part of Hultgren’s objection to the Paris agreement stems from what he views as a “flawed premise” in the Clean Power Plan that Trump administration officials are trying to repeal. The plan is considered former President Barack Obama’s signature climate change policy. It created new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. Hultgren said the plan was not “grounded in law and the Constitution” and he believes it will not withstand a legal challenge.

Hultgren said encouraging new, cleaner energy production is a better method to reduce carbon pollution than punishing users of less clean forms.

“The carrot is better than the stick, and federal R & D (research and development) will help emerging technologies to get to the point of adoption,” he said.

Underwood takes the opposite view. In a written interview, she said pulling out of the Paris agreement was “a mistake.”

“We ceded our international leadership role, and we are not unable to achieve an important multilateral goal of reducing emissions,” she said.

She believes the Clean Power Plan was “a strong step” to curb carbon pollution and reduce methane from the oil and gas industry.

“The Trump Administration’s attempt to dismantle the Clean Power Plan is hazardous to our planet and is an economic and environmental threat to our country,” Underwood said.

Neither candidate directly answered a question about whether they support any form of a tax on carbon polluters. Likewise, when asked how much humans have contributed to climate change, Hultgren said there “are a number of contributing factors.”

“Humans have certainly polluted the earth, and it is our responsibility to develop cleaner technologies,” he said. “I teach my kids we are stewards of the earth, and we have a responsibility toward it.”

Underwood said she believes the science to date includes clear evidence “that human activity is a significant catalyst toward climate change, producing increased carbon emissions that have caused lasting damage to our planet.”

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