How President Joe Biden’s View on Renewable Energy Will Affect Pennsylvania’s Future
February 9, 2021
Having clean air and clean water is something we can all agree on, even in these times of political division. Many people from New York City and the suburbs in New Jersey, for example, flock to Northeastern Pennsylvania, whether it be the Poconos or the Endless Mountains, for vacations each year. Many cite the peace and quiet but others would agree that they don’t have to deal with the pollution of the city when they arrive. The Fresh Air Fund is another example. It gives kids from NYC a chance to experience the outdoors and get out of the city for the summer. All of this would not be possible without clean air and water.
President Joe Biden was very vocal in his campaign speeches about his support for renewable energy and combating climate change. On Day 1 as President, he signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris Accord and resubmit to the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims at reducing carbon emissions, He also cancelled federal permits for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was designed to carry crude oil from the tar sands of Canada’s Alberta province to U.S. refineries. In addition, Biden halted oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Published reports cite analysis from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that says renewable energy resources are expected to deliver 70 percent of the new generation capacity built this year. A report on Greentechmedia.com states the Biden Administration’s plans also include spending $400 billion on federal procurement of renewables, batteries and electric vehicles, reorienting federal government energy purchases on clean resources, ending fossil fuel leasing and smoothing renewable energy development on federally owned lands, and revising energy efficiency and vehicle fuel economy standards.
PennFuture, a nonprofit organization based in Harrisburg, is excited about what it means for Pennsylvania. The organization focuses on a clean energy economy and protecting air, water, land, and sustainable communities in Pennsylvania and beyond according to their website. “President Biden’s energy agenda presents a realistic picture of the challenges we face and the steps we need to take to combat the growing climate crisis and build a sustainable clean energy economy,” said Rob Altenburg, director of PennFuture’s Energy Center. “On the very first day of this new administration, we saw encouraging signs for the future as President Biden rejoined the Paris Accord and cancelled the Keystone XL Pipeline. These actions are needed, but they are also only the first steps in a long journey toward the kind of carbon reductions needed to make a real difference in combating climate change. President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon pollution from the power sector by 2035 is the sort of action that scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tell us we need. One thing we know for sure is that natural gas generation isn’t going to get us to that goal. We need significant investments in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency, coupled with programs like Governor Wolf’s cap-and-invest rule that caps carbon pollution from the generation industry. Former President Trump’s rhetoric about reviving the coal industry in Pennsylvania was an empty promise—coal-fired generation in Pennsylvania fell almost 80 percent during his time in office. We are left with five large coal plants in Pennsylvania that are all nearing retirement, and we need to start making investments in our future so we can rebuild the communities and support the workers impacted by these retirements. At minimum, this new administration is a breath of fresh air, and we are hopeful that real change is coming after four years of rollbacks, reversals and inaction. Despite that, time will tell as to the Biden administration’s true impact on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the climate we all rely on for survival,” he said.
PennFuture also supports a severance tax on natural gas drilling, something that Governor Tom Wolf has proposed again in his 2021 budget. Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state in the country without one. The organization feels it’s past time for the industry to pay its fair share. They also published a report last year called "A Green Stimulus and Recover Platform for Pennsylvania,” which touches on preserving nature-based small businesses, a Green Jobs program, target recovery investments that put Pennsylvanians back to work rebuilding our natural infrastructure and avoid state budget cuts that will harm economic recovery and set back our nature-based businesses. They will be lobbying for state government to implement these ideas this year, especially issues like a state Civilian Conservation Corps and putting people to work by plugging old and abandoned gas wells (there are hundreds of thousands) in Pennsylvania.