Listen to this article

By DICK DURBIN

Deep underground a few miles north of Mattoon, you can find one of the possible solutions to our climate crisis.

Ten years ago, in its pursuit of a national carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) project known as FutureGen, the leaders in Coles County identified a 1,200-acre tract of permeable sandstone deep underground that could be used to safely store carbon dioxide.

The FutureGen competition ended, but the determined locals acquired the subterranean tract and bet that eventually the world would come back to their door.

Meanwhile, 30 miles away in Decatur, ADM refused to wait on the federal government. Eight years ago, at its premiere manufacturing facility, ADM drilled its own CCS project and successfully began storing carbon dioxide (CO2) a mile and a half underground in the same Mt. Simon sandstone structure under Coles County.

The initial project successfully stored a million tons of CO2. ADM has since launched a bolder CCS project to store 5.5 million tons of CO2.

For decades, coal was king in southern Illinois and the nearby states of Kentucky and Indiana. Now, this Mt. Simon sandstone structure holds the potential to be a 21st-century economic success story in the area.

More and more people and businesses are coming to the conclusion that a carbon tax would be an effective way to limit carbon emissions.

Even oil companies have joined environmental groups in promoting the concept. It doesn't take a great leap of logic to imagine the day when there is a price on carbon and those who produce it will be looking for a safe and economical way to store it.

Power plants fueled by fossil fuels emit about 9 tons of carbon annually for each customer served.

Assume a plant in Illinois serves 500,000 customers and generates 4.5 million tons of carbon annually.

If the plant is taxed $40 for each ton of carbon it produces, it would cost $180 million.

In recent Senate floor speeches, otherwise sensible senators have declared that any solutions to our climate crisis would be the end of air travel and ice cream as we know it, as well as being too expensive for working families.

However, they fail to note that many popular carbon tax approaches envision all of the proceeds being rebated directly to American consumers in $2,000 annual payments.

As we pay a heavy price for the extreme weather events brought on by climate change and contemplate even more serious changes in the future, a carbon tax would create a market force for carbon reduction, encourage alternative clean energy sources and promote mechanisms like CCS — all of which would foster the creation of more businesses and jobs.

Illinois is prime underground real estate to store the excess greenhouse gases that are making our planet suffer. Let's start just north of Mattoon.

Democrat Dick Durbin is the senior U.S. senator from Illinois.