An Illinois bill leans into the most contentious part of the Green New Deal

A recurring criticism of the Green New Deal resolution introduced in February by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is that it has too much social justice baggage: Why does a statement of goals to limit climate change and decarbonize the economy devote so much ink to affordable housing, universal health care, and jobs for everyone?

“They are right that the entire energy sector must be reshaped,” the Washington Post editorial board wrote in a sharp appraisal. “But the goal is so fundamental that policymakers should focus above all else on quickly and efficiently decarbonizing. They should not muddle this aspiration with other social policy, such as creating a federal jobs guarantee, no matter how desirable that policy might be.”

Yet the reason the Green New Deal does include social programs is that, as Vox’s David Roberts put it, “It is not merely a way to reduce emissions, but also to ameliorate the other symptoms and dysfunctions of a late capitalist economy: growing inequality and concentration of power at the top.”

And given that decarbonizing the economy would mean jettisoning fossil fuel jobs, the resolution asserts that the transition needs to happen in a just way, mindful of the needs of “vulnerable, frontline, and deindustrialized communities.”

Nonetheless, we haven’t seen much in the way of climate policies that address social justice in this way ever in the United States.

Which is why a new clean energy bill in Illinois may serve as a remarkable test case of one of the Green New Deal’s core principles, at a time when more and more states are adopting ambitious decarbonization targets.

Illinois’s general assembly is weighing a bill that sets an aggressive target of decarbonizing the state’s energy by 2030 and running the state completely on renewable energy by 2050. That includes deploying more than 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines alongside $20 billion in new infrastructure over the next decade. The bill also calls for cutting emissions from transportation and for vastly expanding the clean energy workforce.

But it also leans into many of the social justice ideas outlined in the Green New Deal resolution.

“In the wake of federal reversals on climate action, the State of Illinois should pursue immediate action on policies that will ensure a just and responsible phase out of fossil fuels from the power sector to reduce harmful emissions from Illinois power plants, support power plant communities and workers, and allow the clean energy economy to continue growing in every corner of Illinois,” according to the text of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 2132/ HB 3624).

Broadly, the bill aligns with the Green New Deal. But the Green New Deal resolution is just that — a resolution — whereas in Illinois, the rubber might actually meet the road.

“This bill is far more comprehensive [than the Green New Deal] and positions Illinois as a leader in the clean energy economy,” said Emily Melbye, chief of staff for State Rep. Ann Williams, a sponsor of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. She noted that legislators were working on this bill for years before the Green New Deal entered the national discourse.

It’s ambitious, but also risky. Clean energy policies have faltered in other states where climate change is ostensibly a major concern among the public. Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee recently launched a campaign for president with climate change as a tentpole. Yet voters in his state last year voted down a carbon tax for a second time.

It’s likely Illinois’ more aggressive proposal, with strong social justice themes, will face even bigger political hurdles. Its fate could also be an omen of whether a national climate policy built off the Green New Deal could get off the ground, so it’s worth paying attention to what’s happening in Springfield.

Justice is a central pillar of the Illinois clean energy bill
Supporters of the Illinois bill are arguing that addressing equity and social justice are required to build a coalition to back tough climate targets. And, they say, injustice is an inherent consequence of climate change: The people who contributed the least to the problem stand to suffer the most. Meanwhile, the people who profited the most from burning fossil fuels are the most insulated from its effects.

An amendment outlining the key provisions of the Clean Energy Jobs Act mentions “environmental justice” at least 30 times.

“We are getting pushback from communities that have coal plants that would be predicted to close under this,” said Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, a group promoting the Clean Energy Jobs Act. “They need to see the financial and environmental benefits from whatever we do.”

Illinois currently gets about 31 percent of its electricity from coal, 6 percent from natural gas, and 54 percent from nuclear. That means the 2050 target of getting to 100 percent renewable electricity would require a turnover in the workforce producing 81 percent of the the state’s electricity. That’s a huge social and economic shift.

How eSports became a big business for Razer

When Min-Liang Tan started a business 13 years ago to make gear for playing video games, he faced a lot of doubters.

“I heard all these people saying, ‘Gaming? Isn’t that child’s play?'” he said. “No one wanted to get into gaming.”
Today, his Singapore-based company Razer is one of the biggest providers of gaming hardware and software in the world, with a market value of about $1.6 billion. A big part of its success came from getting in early on eSports, an industry where hardcore gamers compete for money and fans.
Razer designs products such as headsets, controllers and keyboards. But it all began in 2005 with a computer mouse designed specifically for gamers.

“We said we are going to come up with something that’s going to eat up all the other mice out there,” Tan said. “So we called our first mouse the Razer Boomslang, after the African tree snake.”
The futuristic design of the Boomslang made it stand out from other computer products of its time. Razer sold it with the slogan that would define the company’s brand for years to come: “For gamers, by gamers.”

Over the years, Razer developed hundreds more products including laptops and smartphones. It aims to meet demands for fast and ultra sensitive products, which are essential in eSports events where the tiniest delay can cost a game.
“You’re talking about events with tens of millions of dollars in prize money, where win or loss could be just a matter of a single millisecond if somebody is able to click faster,” Tan said.
The company continues to come up with new and improved versions of its signature gaming mouse. The most recent is the Mamba Hyperflux, which charges wirelessly from its mousepad.

Razer now has more than 1,500 employees, with dual headquarters in Singapore and San Francisco. It has offices in cities around the world including Seoul, Shanghai and Hamburg.
It still has work to do to convince investors, though.
The company’s revenue grew 39% to $274 million in the first half of 2018, the most recent period for which it has reported earnings. But it’s still losing money and its stock has lost nearly 60% of its value over the past year.
That put a dent in Tan’s wealth. He was once ranked as Singapore’s youngest self-made billionaire. But Forbes downgraded his net worth last year to $690 million.

Despite competition from rivals like European tech firm Logitech (LOGI), Tan is confident about Razer’s future, saying demand for advanced gaming products is increasing, driven by the popularity of eSports.
This year, online gaming will make its official debut alongside other sports at the Southeast Asian Games in Manila, a key milestone for the industry. Razer has already marked its territory as the official gaming sponsor of the event.
“It’s a serious business right now, so we’re heavily investing in it,” Tan said.

Rockets fired at Tel Aviv, triggering air raid sirens

Two rockets were fired at the Israeli city of Tel Aviv Thursday night, triggering air raid warning sirens, the country’s military said.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed in a Hebrew-language tweet that two rockets were fired into Israeli territory from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Israeli media initially reported that one of the rockets was intercepted by the country’s Iron Dome missile defense system. However, the IDF later said neither of the rockets was, adding that they landed in the sea or on open land.

People living in the area reported hearing an explosion in addition to the sirens. It was not clear what caused that explosion. No damage or casualties were reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an urgent meeting with senior military officials, including his military chief and other top advisers, following the attack to plan a response.

Israel’s Channel 10 news, citing anonymous military officials, said the rockets were Iranian-made Fajr rockets. Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the Israeli army’s chief spokesman, said officials had no prior warning of the attack and were trying to determine who had fired the rockets. Israel holds Gaza’s Hamas rulers responsible for all fire out of the territory.

Tel Aviv has not been attacked by rocket or missile fire since a 2014 war with Hamas militants. There was no immediate claim of responsibility Thursday night, but the attack is likely to trigger a swift and firm reaction from Israel.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said he had ordered the city to open public air raid shelters as a protective measure. But he said there were no special instructions and encouraged residents to stick to their daily routines.

“Continue life as usual,” he told Channel 10 TV. “Be calm, but be alert.”

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis condemned the rocket launches.

“Hamas and other terror groups indiscriminately fire rockets towards Israeli cities,” Marquis said. “Actions like this make it impossible for the international community to assist the Palestinians in Gaza. The United States strongly supports Israel’s right of self-defense.”

Earlier this week, Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire on southern Israel, near the border. Late Thursday, local media said Egyptian mediators who were in Gaza trying to strengthen a cease-fire between Gaza militants and Israel left the territory.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu issued a warning to Hamas, rejecting suggestions that Israel would be reluctant to take tough action in Gaza ahead of national elections next month.

“I suggest to Hamas, don’t count on it,” he told his Cabinet. “We will do anything necessary to restore security and quiet to the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and to the south in general.”

In addition to Hamas, the Gaza Strip is home to other militant groups, including Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed armed organization that also has a formidable rocket arsenal. Last month, the group boasted on Iranian television that Tehran had helped it develop a new missile capable of striking Tel Aviv, Israel’s second-most populous city and the Jewish state’s commercial and cultural capital.