What will it take for Pennsylvania to break away from its dependence on dirty, unhealthy, old fuels like coal and gas, and move enthusiastically and proudly into a clean energy future?
Pennsylvania’s economic reliance on fossil fuel runs deeper than the veins of coal we insist on still extracting. In reality, our fossil fuel economy is as tenuous as the bedrock we frack and decimate to release natural gas into our lives. What will it take to leave it in the ground, and move boldly into a new energy, climate-friendly future driven by renewables and efficiency?
That “future” is taking place, right now, in other states that have embraced clean energy jobs.
Neighboring states are making business development investments and creating incentives that attract wind, solar and related-manufacturing jobs, and create a new workforce to support clean energy industries. They are increasing public investment in research and development and innovation. This is happening in places like New Jersey, where new Governor Murphy prioritized clean energy during his campaign
, and in neighboring New York, where Governor Cuomo launched a $5 billion fund to grow New York’s clean energy economy.
Other states are reaping the economic benefits of clean energy now, at lower cost to public health, environment and climate than what Pennsylvanians must endure through the dominance of dirty energy.
Pennsylvania’s government is simply doing too much to facilitate the success of the fossil fuel industry, including sweetening fossil fuel development with exorbitant subsidies such as the nearly $1.6 billion that ex-Governor Tom Corbett provided Shell Chemical Appalachia
to build an ethane cracker plant in Beaver County so the world can have more plastic. Governor Wolf supports the plant.
So, what needs to happen to wake Pennsylvania up to the future before the new energy economy passes us by and we’re left unable to catch up with clean energy states?
- Clean energy leadership and vision at the highest level of state government, namely through our next governor. Now that we are witnessing the success of the natural gas business, Pennsylvania’s future governor must step up and help level the playing field between the fossil fuel industry and the clean energy industry. Clean energy jobs are outpacing fossil fuel jobs in Pennsylvania and deserve political support and public investment. The new governor must be prepared to present a package of incentives for clean energy, workforce development and greenhouse gas reduction.
- Clean energy champions in our communities are needed to step up and run for elected office.
- Anti-environmental climate deniers in the state legislature must be held accountable for their unabashed embrace of natural gas and their acceptance of gas lobby campaign support. And if they will not be held to account, we need to turn them out of office. This will take time, but elections matter and can create long-lasting change.
- Community activists must roll up the red carpet and pave over the yellow brick road being traveled by pipeline companies, the plastics industry and natural gas businesses and their lobbyists. Communities must begin to work in earnest on a viable clean energy economic development vision for their communities.
- Statewide environmental advocacy organizations must do more to assist on-the-ground activists, through legal and policy assistance. Through our work in Harrisburg, organizations like PennFuture, PennEnvironment, Sierra Club and others must hold the line to defend existing laws and regulations in a hostile anti-regulatory state legislature. Here at PennFuture, we are planning projects with individual communities that are taking their clean energy and climate future into their own hands. Working in these communities, PennFuture will offer technical and planning assistance, and help with project development to local outcomes of reductions in the cost of energy and greenhouse gas reductions.
- Policies must be adopted that continue to prioritize energy efficiency and clean renewable energy. This means defending our Act 129 energy efficiency program, strengthening our Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, and not wasting billions of dollars in tax breaks subsidizing dirty fossil fuels.
- All of us need to play our part: change out your light bulbs, switch to energy star appliances, act on your ability to choose your electric supplier and choose clean energy by visiting www.papowerswitch.com, choose hybrid and electric vehicles, call an elected official and express your views, support your favorite environmental organization working hard for their missions.
I believe clean energy and climate champions will carry the day. If there is any doubt, witness the moves by multinationals like BP, Shell, Ford. All are moving aggressively into the future, and the future is clean energy.