Meredith Angwin

Energy Analyst & Author

The victory!

We won in Illinois!  The Illinois legislature passed the Future Energy Jobs Bill, and Governor Rauner signed it.  This bill adds about 30 cents per month to the average ratepayer’s cost, but it provides money to keep the Illinois nuclear plants operating for the next ten years or more. The bill was a victory for clean air and also saved thousands of jobs in the state.  An ABC News report puts the consumer cost of the bill in perspective, noting that Com Ed (the northern Illinois utility) received at much larger ($2 per household) rate increase earlier in the month.  That earlier increase was unrelated to the nuclear plants.

The Clean Jobs bill was  truly a victory for nuclear energy and clean air! I am pleased that I was part of the October march (in Chicago).  The march was an important part of the activities that led to passing this legislation.  (Here’s my earlier post on the march.)

Yes, of course, it wasn’t just us–the group that marched–that saved the plants. The story is more complicated, as always.  As James Conca wrote at Forbes, this was a real nail-biter of a victory: the pro-nuclear bill passed  just an hour before the legislative session ended.  If the bill hadn’t passed, Exelon was ready with a press release about how they were closing the plants. Michael Shellenberger of Environmental Progress noted which environmental groups supported the bill (including the Sierra Club) and which groups opposed it: his blog post is Big Illinois Victory Shows How Pro and Anti-Nuclear Groups Must Change.

Take Time to Celebrate

To me, the key word for the activist here is Victory.  In other words: Joy.

I put a collage of pictures of happy people at the top of this post.  These people are happy because they are taking action to save the nuclear plants, or because they have won and the plants are saved. (Collage courtesy of Generation Atomic.)

The Illinois legislative session would have been a nail-biter: win or lose.  Pro-nuclear groups might want to rethink their relationships with anti-nuclear groups: win or lose.  In other words, the main thing that is different because we won is—that we won!  There’s a lot to be learned from the Illinois experience, but the first thing to notice is that those nuclear plants will continue to run, producing steady power without emissions, and providing steady employment.

Nobody wins them all. When we do win, we should celebrate.  In my forthcoming book, I suggest that activists should give themselves lots of credit.  We should celebrate even little victories: success builds motivation.

About 45 seconds into the “To Life” scene from Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye says that God expects people to be joyful under all sorts of circumstances, but it’s easier to be  joyful when there’s something to be joyful about.

As activists, let’s take Tevye’s advice. When there’s a reason to be joyful, let’s be joyful. Let’s savor our victories.