A SENSIBLE ENERGY POLICY FOR SOUTHWESTERN PA:
SEIZING THE DAY WHILE PAVING THE WAY FOR THE FUTURE
For more than a century, Pennsylvania has played a significant role in powering America with fossil fuels. Our oil, coal, and natural gas industries have been crucial factors in the economic development of the United States, and the people who have labored in those industries should be proud of their contributions.
Over the past decade, natural gas has emerged as an essential part of the mix for the foreseeable future because it is cleaner than other fossil fuels, abundant, and relatively cheap. But despite the clear economic benefits to the region, fracking still contributes to greenhouse gases and associated climate change.
“I refuse to subscribe to the school of thought that says we must choose between natural gas and renewables. Our national energy policy is an area where pragmatism and sustainable economic growth- not political extremism– must win the day.”
Furthermore, we must be diligent in addressing the significant and very real concerns created by bad actors who refuse to utilize best practices associated with fracking, including the risk of contaminating our groundwater and air with toxic, volatile organic compounds. We can never let economic gain justify turning a blind eye to public health, and those who disrespect our communities by cutting corners must be met with swift regulatory and if necessary, criminal penalties.
It is now clear that America’s energy future will depend on new sources of energy, sources that are cleaner and virtually inexhaustible: solar, wind, hydroelectric.
The reasons are simple and straightforward.
The scientific consensus is clear. The burning of fossil fuels is substantially contributing to the warming of the planet, severe weather, and rising sea levels. Also, increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide – the direct product of burning hydrocarbons – means more CO2 dissolved in the oceans, which act as a buffer. As a result, the level of acidity of our oceans is increasing. The acidification of the oceans is already posing a threat to marine life. Unchecked, it may eventually wipe out all marine life, with devastating consequences for the planet.
Even for those skeptical about climate change and acidification of the oceans for various reasons, there is one very compelling and undeniable reason to move to inexhaustible supplies of energy: Fossil fuels are going to run out. We may not know precisely when they will be depleted because we keep developing new technologies to extract them from the earth. But despite our technical ingenuity, supplies will continue to dwindle, the cost of extraction will rise, resulting in ever-increasing upward pressure on prices.
It is foolhardy to say we should wait for these prices to soar to make wind and solar economically attractive because it is essential that we proactively prepare the national infrastructure to store and distribute the energy generated from those sources.
Energy and climate scientists, as well as economists, have been telling us these facts for decades now. We have not been listening. The political influence of the fossil fuels industries is part of the problem. And our natural tendency to believe we can keep doing what we’ve been doing must be overcome.
Our national energy plan should include:
Funding for research;
Investment in infrastructure;
Innovative economic opportunities to encourage our growing global market share, both short-term and long-term; and
An increased percentage of electricity generated with renewables and rate of personal transportation provided by electric rather than gasoline-powered vehicles, must be set and met.
These are challenges that must be met now, and not left for future generations.
We have a unique opportunity to embrace our region’s current role in domestic energy production while training our collective eyes on the possibilities of the future. With robust investment in renewable and sustainable technologies including solar and wind, southwestern Pennsylvania is positioned to be an energy powerhouse for decades to come.