Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Commonwealth has signed on to the U.S. Climate Alliance. The U.S. Climate Alliance is a bipartisan agreement that commits states to initiate and implementing carbon reduction policies. Currently, there are 24 state signatories.
Governor Wolf also released a plan outlining the state’s efforts toward the initiative. The plan includes short-term and long-term goals, aiming at reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 26 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. Much of the plan criticizes fossil fuels, their negative impact on the environment and climate, and our current dependency on them.
Despite the criticism, fossil fuels (and especially natural gas in Pennsylvania) remain an important part of the State’s energy mix. The W&J Center for Energy Policy and Management’s Energy Index estimated that in 2016, the Commonwealth procured 77.2 percent of its energy from fossil fuels. Of that 77.2 percent, approximately 27.8 percent came from natural gas.
Traditionally, the largest source of energy in Pennsylvania was coal. However, that has changed since the unconventional natural gas boom. The shift away from coal toward natural gas has allowed the Commonwealth to reduce carbon emissions while meeting electrical demand. Natural gas-fired power plants emit between 50 and 60% less carbon dioxide and other environmentally harmful gasses than coal plants.
The reduction in emissions seen as a result of the shift away from coal still does not help Pennsylvania meet its goals as outlined in Governor Wolf’s plan. In order to meet those goals, the Commonwealth would need to drastically increase the share of its energy generated by renewable resources. According to the W&J Energy Index, only 4.6 percent of the Commonwealth’s energy comes from renewables.