Alternative Energy Fuels Race for House Democrat Favors Legislation Requiring Biomass, Wind; Republican Not So Sure

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Byline: Eric Peterson Daily Herald Staff Writer

The Democratic challenger in the 52nd House District race plans to propose legislation requiring gradually increased use of alternative energy sources over the next 20 years, if elected.

Steve Skinner, 42, of Round Lake, said his proposal would help provide more jobs and expand a new technology to Illinois, while helping create a cleaner environment.

But Republican incumbent Mark Beaubien, 60, of Barrington Hills, said the idea is no more than another of Skinner's piecemeal approaches to tackling the complex issue of Illinois' projected $2 billion to $3 billion budget deficit.

Beaubien is a member of several budget-related committees in Springfield as well as the Energy and Environment Committee. He said uses of alternative energy sources like windmills are already being studied and evaluated across the state, but that their ability to provide the amount of energy Skinner proposes is far from being demonstrated.

Even less likely is that alternative energy sources would provide a significant number of jobs, Beaubien said.

Beaubien doubted that increased use of alternative energies would harm any of the existing industries like coal, oil or natural gas, just as he doubted that the amount of power they could provide would ever be significant.

Skinner's proposal is to require 6 percent of all energy used by the Illinois government to come from nonpollutant, alternative sources by 2004. This percentage would then increase to 15 percent in 2010 and to 30 percent in 2020.

The plan, Skinner said, would reduce the state's energy costs and potentially provide a new source of revenue if sufficient surplus energy is sold. He also felt the plan would stabilize prices due to lower dependency on foreign energy sources.

"The United States used to produce 50 percent of the world's oil," Skinner said. "Now we produce less than half of what we use ourselves."

The types of energy in which he hopes to see the greatest increase of use are proven technologies like biomass fuels produced by agriculture. …