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Creating synergy between energy and development decisions

To pump, treat and deliver the 550 billion gallons of water metropolitan Chicago consumes annually, it takes as much energy as it does to drive nearly 4.9 million cars for an entire year.

At an MPC-Openlands roundtable luncheon this past Tuesday, that statistic was one of many that drove home the nexus between water and energy use, a topic that’s just beginning to get the attention it deserves in a nation – and world – racing toward shortages in both. As population and wealth increase in cities across the globe, quality of life – and all of the creature comforts that entails, from clothes and restaurants, to cars and homes – continue to demand more of these two vital resources. Yet we’re not doing the research, investing in the infrastructure, or developing the policies that will close the gap between what we have and what we need. Read this post from MPC’s Josh Ellis for more on what was discussed at Tuesday’s roundtable, and to watch a video featuring Michael Webber, the nation’s foremost expert on water-energy independence. (And check out the Multimedia page later this week for a video featuring Frank Benichou of Veolia, explaining their new Water Impact Index.)           

The gap between what we have and what we need can be our demise – or it can spur us to make changes that better integrate energy policy and investments with other critical components of regional growth. Some of this coordination is already happening, but we need more of it to truly close the gap. Policies taking shape right now, such as the Livable Communities Act, approved by the Senate Banking Committee last Tuesday, would catapult us ahead by aligning agencies’ plans and investments to support sustainable community development. Another opportunity is the nation’s next surface transportation bill, which could provide incentives to communities and regions to dramatically alter how we invest, toward communities with better transportation connections and, ultimately, greater energy savings. MPC is working with Transportation for America and a coalition of Illinois organizations to ensure that our voice is heard as Congress begins to debate this bill. 

The intersection between energy use and how we live will be the focal point tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 10, in Chicago, at a showing of Carbon Nation, a film about tackling climate change while boosting the economy, increasing national security, and promoting good health. The filmmakers, including my friend Craig Sieben (one of the producers), promise “a positive, solutions-based, non-preachy, non-partisan” film featuring true stories from around the nation that raise up climate change solutions – “even if you don’t believe in climate change.” Learn more about the film on Facebook. The free, 90-minute film screening, brought to our region in part by the Chicago Climate Action Plan team (of which MPC is a part), is open to the public and starts at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 10 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Maybe I’ll see you there!




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