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April 24, 2001

Ryan to Meet With Energy Secretary Abraham

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan will meet in Washington this week with U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to discuss energy issues that face Illinois consumers, including the potential for high summertime gasoline prices, increasing the use of ethanol, supporting the clean use of Illinois coal, the disposal of nuclear waste and maintaining adequate supplies of electricity.

Ryan's meeting with Abraham will occur during the governor's two-day trip to the nation's capitol to push Illinois' legislative agenda in Congress.

"The use and availability of energy continues to be a very important issue for the people of Illinois," Ryan said. "From high gas prices and keeping adequate supplies of electricity to helping our farmers by increasing the use of ethanol, the decisions we make today will have a great impact on Illinois' future.

"I'm meeting with Secretary Abraham to outline what's important to Illinois citizens, what we're doing to develop a statewide energy policy and to let him know that we are going to cooperate fully in the development of a nationwide energy strategy."

Abraham, a former U.S. senator from Michigan, is working with Vice President Cheney on the development of a nationwide energy policy. Ryan sent a letter to Cheney in February describing some of the aspects of a national energy plan that would be of importance to Illinois.

These issues include:

  • The potential for high gasoline prices during the summer months. Although there is little state government can do to prevent spikes in gasoline prices, Ryan wants to discuss the factors that have led in recent years to price spikes, including the closing of regional refineries, federal support for new pipeline and fuel storage facilities and federal rules that require suppliers to exhaust tanks full of "winter blend" gasoline before they can fill those tanks with "summer blend" gasoline - a situation that creates artificial shortages of fuel.

  • A greater use of ethanol. Ryan wants federal rules that allow an expanded use of ethanol as an additive in blended gasoline throughout the country to replace MTBE. A greater use of ethanol could help increase gasoline supplies and give an economic boost to Illinois farmers.

  • The adequate supply and distribution of electricity. Illinois utilities report that the state will have enough electricity this summer to fill the anticipated demand, but several issues remain unsolved relating to distribution and transmission in the wake of deregulation. Ryan wants Illinois' state policy and a nationwide strategy to address these issues.

  • The clean use of Illinois coal. Illinois has more than 200 years worth of coal reserves and the governor has allocated $93 million over the last two years to the development of environmentally friendly ways of burning Illinois coal to produce energy. Right now, 54 percent of the electricity produced in Illinois is generated by coal-fired power plants. The governor wants federal rules and regulations to balance environmental protection with a greater ability to use Illinois coal in the nation's energy future.

  • The disposal of nuclear waste. Ryan wants the national energy policy to develop a comprehensive method of disposing wastes from nuclear power plants. These radioactive wastes are building up at power plants.

Ryan also will discuss Illinois' desire to have the department of energy site the new $850 million Rare Isotope Accelerator project at the Argonne National Laboratory. The RIA project, which would mean 200 new jobs and a $60 million economic boost for Illinois, is a next generation research project designed to study nuclear material. Argonne is one of the nation's preeminent research centers.


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