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MARKS: Can Pennsylvania Afford a Green Transition in Energy?

The energy landscape in Pennsylvania is rich.  We’ve taken advantage of our huge coal and natural gas resources for more than a century.  More recently, prolific gas production has ensured low heating and power generation costs in Pennsylvania for years.  But the transition to a ‘green’ economy could stop this progress with clean coal and gas-fired generation, and could mean giving up our natural gas appliances too.

The energy industry in Pennsylvania has served us well.  Pennsylvania homes and businesses enjoy energy low prices and good energy jobs.  But now this is being threatened with bad science and misguided politicians.

First, some facts –

  • Pennsylvania is the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer after Texas, producing more than 7½ trillion cubic feet each year.
  • Pennsylvania is the third-largest coal-producing state, and it’s the second-largest coal exporter to foreign markets.
  • Pennsylvania ranked second after Illinois in electricity generation from nuclear power. And since 2019, natural gas has surpassed nuclear energy as the largest source of in-state electricity generation.
  • Over half of Pennsylvania households use natural gas as heating fuel; and the state’s 49 gas storage sites — the most for any state – help meet winter demand for the Mid-Atlantic and New England.
  • Pennsylvania is the second-largest net supplier, after Texas, of total energy to other states.

Pennsylvania’s fossil fuel industry has been important to our nation – in the past, now, and in our nation’s future.

Today, we also demand that we are better stewards of the environment.  Industry has delivered with improved manufacturing methods and more efficient infrastructure.  The EPA reports that, since 1980, carbon monoxide emissions are down by more than 74%.  Nitrogen dioxide emissions have been reduced by more than 70%.  Sulfur dioxide emissions are off 93%.  And carbon dioxide emissions – CO2 – for all vehicles during the same period – have fallen by 31% – and still trending down .

President Biden is pushing a transition to a green economy.  But the EPA says we are getting greener without borrowing trillions of dollars.  I was always taught If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Don’t force Electric Vehicles on us.  Let us choose what works best now, while we improve on technology for the future.

Biden says green industries can deliver jobs.  But running gas-fired power plants and refineries requires many workers.  How many jobs would Pennsylvania lose under Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which, by the way has only increased inflation?  Biden’s plan hopes to create more than 200,000 jobs over the next ten years in Pennsylvania.  What Biden doesn’t tell you is that the good jobs in natural gas and coal go away, to be replaced with taxpayer-subsidized energy justice jobs and environmental justice jobs, whatever that means.

President Biden visited the Philadelphia shipyard to talk about energy jobs, and one particular ship’s components will be built by nine unions across the country.  How do temporary jobs in Philadelphia help develop energy jobs across Pennsylvania?  Biden hopes that workers who lose their jobs in the transition will find a place in the green economy.  But the EV industry, as an example, is a net job loser for us, and a net job gainer for China.

Can Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act produce as many jobs as those we’ll lose?  If your job that is connected with natural gas or coal, or if your job depends on Pennsylvania minerals for manufacturing, then you can understand the damage that will be done if Mr. Biden phases out gas and coal.  You see, after the equipment is built and installed, solar and wind almost runs itself.  Job losses naturally follow.

According to the DoE, energy jobs in the U.S. grew by 3.8 percent in 2022, half of them being green energy jobs.  But remember – once it’s installed, most of the work goes away.  The green economy can’t replace job losses from refineries and power plants that require 24-hour, 365-day staffing.  And it cannot deliver the same reliable energy!  The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun isn’t always shining.

Thousands of Pennsylvania families have, for generations, made a living in oil and gas and coal.  Now Joe Biden wants to end these jobs and tell workers to find jobs elsewhere.  This delivers serious headwinds to energy with the green transition.  American companies cannot compete with cheap labor in China, which dominates the solar panel business.

I said in the beginning that I would tell you what we need to best develop energy here in Pennsylvania.  We need Donald Trump.  Donald Trump understands energy and real job creation.  He understands competition, and American ingenuity that produces energy from all sources – in a cleaner, and less expensive way.


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PA House GOP’s Pro-Energy Agenda Counters Shapiro Cap-and-Trade Plan

Two weeks after Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced his cap-and-trade carbon credits system, House Republicans unveiled a vastly different energy legislative package.

Calling Shapiro’s proposals an “assault on Pennsylvanians’ wallets,” Republicans said their bills better promote energy savings. They include proposals that would redirect more than $520 million in Act 129 funds meant for energy efficiency and conservation programs into a credit on Pennsylvanians’ energy bills.

“Households across the commonwealth experience the impacts of high energy costs, as some are forced to reduce spending on food, medicine or other necessities in order to heat their homes,” said the group of representatives, which included Bucks County Rep. Joe Hogan. “This is unacceptable, especially when rising prices are attributable to government regulations and policies.”

Shapiro claims his Pennsylvania Climate Emissions Reduction Act (PACER) proposal would save customers $252 million via electricity rebates.

Hogan, however, argued the state needs to expand its property tax/rent rebate program.

“I have heard from too many of my neighbors to know more people need help,” he told DVJournal. “That is why I’m working to include utility costs in the income determination so that more people qualify and the rebates are larger for those that currently qualify.”

The state’s property tax/rent rebate program gives rebates to qualifying residents who make up to $45,000 a year.

Another bill would create a Health Savings Account type program for utility bills that allows employers to directly deposit part of a worker’s salary into a bank account without paying taxes.

Other proposals target the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

One bill called for an Independent Energy Advocate within the agency. Appointed by the governor, the advocate would encourage regulators to consider “broader energy implications” before issuing rules. Republicans said that that would protect grid reliability and energy affordability.

DEP could get a name change to the Department of Environmental Services to promote a more business-friendly culture. A bill description suggested that DEP workers see “themselves as…a necessary barrier to the expansion of business and development.”

A bill by Rep. James Struzzi II (R-Indiana) called for the creation of an independent agency to promote energy development. The head of the unnamed agency would review all proposed energy rules. Another bill by Struzzi tasked regulators with explaining how electricity prices might be negatively affected by new regulations.

Energy production facilities that were closed due to Pennsylvania’s stalled entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative could also become eligible for Keystone Opportunity Zone-related tax breaks. A bill description said that would propose job growth and new development.

There’s also a bill suggesting that Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia team up for lobbying efforts before PJM Interconnection officials. The states are the top three energy producers in the PJM Interconnection-run power grid.

Energy and manufacturing groups hailed the bills.

“It’s refreshing to see Pennsylvania policymakers focused on a pro-growth, pro-production, pro-consumer agenda,” Carl A. Marrara, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association told DVJournal. “Nationally, Pennsylvania is the number one exporter of electricity, number two producer of natural gas, number three producer of coal; we are a global energy leader and it’s time we act like it.”

Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan argued that Pennsylvania policymakers need to remember how the state benefited from natural gas. He told DVJournal that natural gas reduced carbon emissions 46 percent from the power sector and saved consumers nearly $9 billion last year compared to 2008.

Republicans are the minority in the House but control the Senate. A Senate Republican Caucus spokesperson told DVJournal that they share a common objective with House Republicans on energy policy.

Shapiro’s office did not return an email asking for comment.

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Two of Shapiro’s Clean Energy Sources in New Power Plan Unlikely to Arrive by 2035 Deadline

(This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.)

Governor Shapiro reignited the energy debate in the commonwealth last week when he announced his long term energy plan that includes a cap-and-trade mechanism to lower the state’s carbon emissions, and also sets new goals for the state’s energy portfolio.

But many critics of the plan say key details are missing, and some of the energy sources he’s banking on are still so theoretical or untested that it creates a risk for the commonwealth to bet on those technologies at the moment.

Shapiro’s plan asks the state to get 35 percent of its energy from so-called clean energy sources by 2035.

The acceptable sources for that goal are called “Tier I sources”, and include “solar, wind, low-impact hydropower, geothermal, small modular nuclear reactors, nuclear fusion technology, and fugitive emissions from coal mines and landfills,” according to a report by StateImpact Pennsylvania.

Two of those sources — small modular nuclear reactors, and fusion reactors — still appear to be struggling to become commercially viable, raising serious questions as to whether those technologies could play a legitimate role in the state by the 2035 goal — a mere eleven years away.

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, or SMRs, are exactly what their name sounds like: taking large nuclear power plants and downsizing them to make their construction and geographic placement easier and more flexible.

Although the idea has caught a lot of hype, actual deployment of the technology has proven frustrating.

“In fact, SMRs are not forecast to hit the commercial market before 2030, and although SMRs are expected to have lower up-front capital costs per reactor, their economic competitiveness is still to be proven in practice once they are deployed at scale,” an article from the website Energy Monitor says.

An example of the real-world difficulties can be found in western states, where a recent deal to start deployment of SMRs had to be abandoned in November.

“Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), a coalition of community-owned power systems in seven western states, withdrew from a deal to build the plant, designed by NuScale Power, because too few members agreed to buy into it,” a report from said. “The project, subsidized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), sought to revive the moribund U.S. nuclear industry, but its cost had more than doubled to $9.3 billion.”

“To some observers, the plan’s collapse also raises questions about the feasibility of other planned advanced reactors, meant to provide clean energy with fewer drawbacks than existing reactors,” the report went on to say.

“There’s plenty of reasons to think [the other projects] are going to be even more difficult and expensive,” Edwin Lyman, a physicist and director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the outlet.

The Utah news created shocks in North Carolina, where the state’s largest energy producer, Duke Energy, is betting big on SMRs.

“We are disappointed that the Carbon-Free Power Project will not be moving forward but remain committed to pursuing new nuclear to provide our customers affordable, reliable and clean energy solutions and meet the growing energy needs in our communities,” the company said in response to the Utah failure.

But the same statement also noted that Duke is hoping to add “next-generation nuclear technologies starting in the mid-2030s.”

Duke Energy already has two locations picked out for the first deployments of its anticipated fleet of SMRs and is sawing away at the permit, regulatory, and transmission issues right now. Pennsylvania knows none or very few of those things, making 2035 seem unrealistic.

Fusion Reactors

If SMRs face long odds to be in the state’s portfolio by 2035, fusion reactors may be an even longer shot.

A small scientific breakthrough in 2022 rekindled imaginations of a power source that would largely be emissions free and radically drop costs.

“But it turns out that fusion power is … hard. Really hard. Really complicated,” an article from says. “Full of unexpected pitfalls and traps. We’ve been trying to build fusion generators for three-quarters of a century, and we’ve made a lot of progress — enormous, groundbreaking, horizon-expanding progress. But we’re not there yet. Fusion power has been one of those things that’s been ‘only 20 years away’ for about 50 years now.”

An undated “FAQ” page from the International Atomic Energy Agency provides an optimistic yet tame forecast.

“A prototype of a fusion reactor (DEMO) is expected to be built by 2040. Electricity generation and exploitation is also expected to take place in the second half of the century, depending on funding and technical advancement.”

With a prototype only being deployed by 2040, it beggars belief that the technology could play a meaningful role in the state’s clean energy portfolio by 2035.

“If Governor Shapiro is going to overthrow Pennsylvania’s competitive market for electricity, he should at least tell us where the power will come from and how much each source will generate,” said David N. Taylor, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association.

“The governor’s mandate would monopolize half of Pennsylvania’s electricity market for his chosen power sources, so how many small modular nuclear reactors will be online in the commonwealth by 2035? Who will build them? Where will they be located? How much generation will they add to the grid? When will nuclear fusion be discovered and by whom?

“If Governor Shapiro intends to mandate the usage of these sources, he should be able to answer these questions.”

A request for comment to Governor Shapiro’s office was not returned.

Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward who sits on the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, also says she has more questions than answers. For example, she says Shapiro’s proposal to mix in federal dollars is one of those areas.

“Shapiro has offered no detail or explanation of where exactly the federal funding will come from, nor does he address how it will be used, or confirm if it will be sustainable,” Ward said. “More importantly, do these federal dollars come with strings attached, such as labor union requirements, DEI, or other items? It all seems to be cobbled together in a quagmire. Shapiro plays this quagmire off as if it is visionary. Instead it is murky and built on a house of cards.”

A request for comment to two Democrat members of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee about SMRs and fusion were not returned.

Point: Record Production Means Energy and Economic Security

For another point of view, see: “Counterpoint: A Fossil Fuel Export Society is Wrong for America”

America’s oil and natural gas producers are innovating to produce more oil and gas than ever while generating less emissions and bringing reliable, affordable energy to Americans and our global allies. In its latest short-term energy outlook, the Energy Information Administration estimated that U.S. crude oil production reached “an all-time high in December of more than 13.3 million barrels per day.”

That production helps stabilize prices for consumers. Oil and natural gas are sold on global markets, and prices can be affected by events or decisions (frequently by bad actors) on the other side of the world. However, having strong U.S. output helps reduce the shock of those actions for Americans.

Our record level of energy production does face threats — specifically by the U.S. government, whose leaders have sought to shut down oil and gas producers with an all-of-government approach, but the industry pushes forward.

Last year, the oil and natural gas sectors continued to innovate and reach record-breaking levels of production. After becoming a net energy exporter in 2019, the United States has emerged as a behemoth in the global energy market, hitting prolific levels of oil and natural gas production and exports in the past year. U.S. liquified natural gas had a tremendous 2023, with the United States becoming the top LNG exporter in the world.

These record-breaking levels of production have not come at the expense of Americans, as some claim. On the contrary, record energy production levels have successfully met domestic and international demand, providing crucial energy security at home and abroad, all while keeping prices stable.

The American oil and natural gas industry continues to prioritize environmental progress. The workers producing the energy we use daily live in homes surrounded by the oilfield, breathing the air and drinking the water from aquifers above the oil reservoirs where they produce; thus, they are highly motivated to preserve and protect the environment for today and for future generations.

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency showed stunning drops in methane emissions across the board in oil- and natural gas-producing basins. The Arkoma Basin (Arkansas and Oklahoma) had a 77 percent decrease over the last five years. Anadarko (Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas) had a 44 percent decrease. And the Permian (Texas and New Mexico) had 32 percent less emissions. All show that even with record production, U.S. operators continue to produce oil and gas responsibly and with an eye toward methane reduction.

Voluntary initiatives like the Environmental Partnership, representing nearly 70 percent of U.S. onshore oil and gas operations, showcase the industry’s commitment to responsible operations through innovation and collaboration. In their 2023 report, the Environmental Partnership highlighted an additional 14 percent reduction in total flare volumes and a 2.4 percent reduction in flare intensity from the previous year — building on the work to cut flaring intensity nearly in half in 2022 — even as U.S. oil and gas production grew.

Considering the uncertain regulatory environment, these accomplishments and innovations are even more impressive. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the Biden administration’s illegal actions regarding onshore and offshore leasing.

In the Gulf of Mexico, offshore production provides the lowest carbon barrels of oil, generates millions of dollars in funding for parks and recreation programs, and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across every state. Yet the administration released an offshore plan 450 days late that only offered three lease sales over the next five years — the fewest in history.

Onshore, it’s a similar story. There are widespread administrative efforts to limit access for development despite disagreement from local groups, including tribes. The president and leaders who control the Senate want to limit capital access for producers, add new taxes and increase federal regulations.

Yes, our members are achieving record production NOW. But you can find a timeline on the Independent Petroleum Association of America website that shows how the exploration and production process — from identifying potential acreage and seismic testing to production and development — can take up to 15 years. There are many rounds of environmental analysis and permitting before a well starts producing. Much investment and planning goes into the process. Policies that stall energy production through delayed permitting, infrastructure or regulatory barriers diminish producers’ ability to operate.

The bottom line is a thriving American oil and gas industry means increased energy and economic security at home and abroad and progress toward global emission reduction goals. While administration regulatory hurdles add challenges, U.S. oil and natural gas producers continue to produce record-setting, responsible oil and natural gas.

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Report Calls LNG Export Terminal a Boon for DelVal Economy; Opponents Aren’t on Board

Whether southeastern Pennsylvania becomes the base for a liquified natural gas terminal remains unclear after the release of a much-awaited report from the bipartisan Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force.

“Our abundant natural gas resources not only fuel economic growth within the commonwealth but also offer us a unique opportunity to meet growing energy demand across the globe while creating tens of thousands of jobs and generating billions of dollars in yearly economic activity that can benefit communities in the Southeast region,” said task force Chair Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia).

Recommendations in the final report include:

  • Facilitating pathways to support the current skilled labor workforce and workforce of the future by promoting educational opportunities and partnerships with the industry, institutions of higher education, and K-12 schools—especially those located in the Greater Philadelphia area and surrounding communities.
  • Streamlining and improving the permitting process in Pennsylvania to balance regulatory considerations with the need for an effective and efficient permitting process to attract investment in Pennsylvania.
  • Calling on Congress to reform the Jones Act to facilitate the transport of LNG between U.S. ports.

“As this report shows, Pennsylvania is poised to help address the increasing global demand for affordable, reliable energy by leveraging its abundant supply of natural gas and exporting LNG overseas,” said Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director of American Petroleum Institute Pennsylvania. “Under the leadership of Rep. White, this task force has put forth a comprehensive report and roadmap for Pennsylvania to establish an LNG export facility that would bring significant new investment and economic growth to the region and generate thousands of new jobs. Advancing the recommendations outlined in the report, including permitting reform at the state and federal level, is critical to developing an LNG export terminal and thus expanding Pennsylvania’s role as a global energy leader.”

Task Force member Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Bradford) said, “Pennsylvania’s diverse energy portfolio, robust energy sector, and extensive geological formations make us uniquely qualified to address the demand for affordable and reliable energy.”

“We already know the benefits of an LNG terminal are far too great to ignore, and the final report of the task force serves as a solid roadmap to position Pennsylvania as a global leader in energy exportation,” said Yaw, who chairs the environmental resources and energy committee. “Through the report’s recommendations to streamline the permitting process, strengthen our skilled labor workforce, and facilitate the safe and efficient transportation of LNG, we have the potential to create jobs, support economic development, reduce harmful emissions, and restore energy independence to this country.”

Toby Z. Rice, president and chief executive officer of EQT Corporation, a natural gas producer, sees this as a moment to seize the economic opportunity from the state’s standing as “a leading energy supplier.”

“For the first time in decades, the number of people without access to electricity increased in 2022. The task force’s report is clear – making clean, affordable, reliable Appalachian natural gas available on a global scale will increase energy security, decrease global emissions, and promote family-sustaining jobs across the Commonwealth. We have an incredible opportunity before us to unleash U.S. LNG from Pennsylvania, which will address the global energy shortage and generate thousands of jobs for Pennsylvanians,” Rice said.

Jim Snell, business manager of Steamfitters Local 420, likes what he sees in the report. “I am thrilled with the adoption of the final report from the Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force. This is an important step toward realizing the economic benefits of an LNG export terminal in our region, which can create thousands of well-paying union jobs and support the hard-working men and women in our community.”

White said the recommendations in the report are aimed at growing Pennsylvania’s economy, supporting Pennsylvania workers, and developing the future workforce.

“The adoption of this report is especially important in light of the decision by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court voiding Pennsylvania’s entrance into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state energy tax program that would have increased energy costs for Pennsylvanians,” said White. “We have the opportunity to not only increase energy production safety and efficiently and work toward reducing energy costs for Pennsylvania consumers.”

Carl Marrara, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, conducted an economic analysis, finding the LNG export facility would benefit the local, regional, and statewide economies.

“Assuming a four-year constriction phase, a similarly sized LNG export facility would produce over 7,000 jobs per year, with approximately $575.35 million in labor income alone added to the state and local economy. In total, construction of the facility would add approximately $1.195 billion in total yearly economic output.

“The industries most positively impacted from the increase in economic activity are those in the skilled trades, led by jobs created for the construction of the facility structures, as well as commercial and industrial machinery repair, concrete manufacturing and fabricated pipe and fitting manufacturing,” Marra said.

However, some local officials are lining up to oppose any LNG development.

Chester Mayor-elect Stefan Roots told DVJournal he is concerned about pollution and the danger an LNG terminal might bring.

“There’s a public health and public safety issue first and foremost,” said Roots. Typically, these plants are built on at least 1,000 acres of “unpopulated land,” he said. “To squeeze all that onto 100 acres displaces dozens and dozens of families, churches, and established entities here to create the blast zone that they need, which indicates this is not a safe business, is something I don’t like.”

It is also unclear whether Gov. Josh Shapiro will support the effort to locate an LNG facility in the Delaware Valley. His spokesperson did not respond when asked whether the governor supports an LNG terminal for southeastern Pennsylvania.

The bipartisan Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force was comprised of members of the General Assembly, representatives of the natural gas industry, organized labor, the Port of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Gas Works, the mayor of Philadelphia, and members of the governor’s administration.

Could Pennsylvania Join California in Suing Big Oil?

With the declaration, “Enough is enough,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced his state was suing five major oil companies. Now some in Pennsylvania are pushing for the commonwealth to side with California.

While there has been no action from the Attorney General’s Office, David Zeballos with the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) wants the Keystone State to jump in on the Golden State’s side.

“State and local leaders have an important role to play in supporting these accountability efforts and making polluters pay for the damage they have caused,” he said on October 2 at the Pennsylvania Capitol. “You can lead the charge to calculate local climate change adaptation costs, condemn climate disinformation, raise awareness for urgent action on the climate crisis, and much more. The fossil fuel industry knowingly caused the climate crisis and continues to profit from climate pollution while our communities pay the price.”

CCI is considered the main driver of the civil lawsuits against ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. California cited the nonprofit several times in court papers. There are reports suggesting CCI is working with other states and cities on their climate-related lawsuits. CCI President Richard Wiles has also suggested more government-backed suits may be on the horizon.

In Pennsylvania, a Big Oil lawsuit enjoys support from state Rep. Christopher M. Rabb (D-Philadelphia County). He cited the Center for Climate Integrity in August when complaining about the warmer-than-usual summer. Rabb vowed it was time to “make Big Oil pay” for the changing weather.

“Just a few weeks ago, intense rains caused flash flooding in my district of Philadelphia and beyond, killing at least six people in Bucks County,” he said. “Pennsylvania communities have an opportunity to sue Big Oil and protect our residents from being stuck with the bill to adapt to the climate crisis that Big Oil created. The worsening impacts of this climate crisis will continue whether we’re ready or not. It’s time to be proactive and protect our communities.”

Fossil fuels are an important part of Pennsylvania’s economy. The state is the second largest natural gas producer in the country, behind only Texas. It is also the top East Coast supplier of natural gas, coal, and refined petroleum products, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Renewable energy provides three percent of the state’s power.

Pennsylvania isn’t involved in any suits against Big Oil, and there’s no word if Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration would even consider it.

The Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association hopes Rabb will stay away from litigation. “The radical greens are attempting to overthrow our modern civilization,” PMA President and CEO David Taylor told DVJournal. “Their allies in the litigation industry are trying to extort money out of the productive sector. Either way, it’s a war on society via the courts, also known as ‘lawfare’.”

Taylor sees the suits as “the stupidest kind of politics” because they are going after an industry “that makes modern life possible.” He points out that environmentalists forget that fossil fuels are used for more than just vehicles and heating.

“Electric cars require a ton of rare earth minerals that have to be mined, processed, and transported from the other side of the world, using massive earth-moving equipment, refineries, and ships,” he said. “The rest of the car is metal, plastic, and synthetic rubber. The road is concrete, which is made from cement. The road is then coated in asphalt, which is a petroleum product. It is then striped with paint, which is another petroleum product. The idea that modern humans can live without petrochemicals and hydrocarbons is insane.”

The suits have run into mixed results in courts. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out New York City’s lawsuit in 2021, saying states didn’t have jurisdiction. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to move other suits to federal court. Justices are expected to rule on whether Minnesota’s Big Oil suit moves to federal court in the near future.

“Anyone blaming fossil fuels should stop using them,” Taylor quipped. “Good luck.”


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Experts Warn of Grid Crisis as PA Senators Demand Green Energy

When the U.S. Senate approved the Inflation Reduction Act, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) celebrated the legislation as “the most ambitious climate bill the Senate has ever passed.”

Casey said he supported the Biden administration’s goal of reducing power from coal and natural gas sources. “It will shore up the U.S.’s place as a clean energy producer and reduce our greenhouse emissions by 40 percent by 2030,” Casey said, “while investing in the coal communities that powered our nation for generations.”

But last week, senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard a very different story. The retirement of fossil fuel electricity production and the lack of reliable renewables to replace it are putting America’s grid at risk. That includes the possibility of rolling blackouts and widespread deaths from a loss of power.

For example, the regional grid operator PJM projected 40 gigawatts of electric production to be retired by 2030, about one-fifth of its current installed capacity. More than half of that loss comes from what it termed “policy-driven retirements.”

Last week’s committee hearing was called to “examine the reliability and resiliency of electric service in the United States in light of recent reliability assessments and alerts.” The news was ominous.

James Robb, president & CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, told senators the electric power system “is absolutely at an inflection point right now.”

The grid, Robb said, needs to be able to hold up especially well when demand surges, and residents call for huge amounts of electricity. He argued that novel new forms of electricity production “can’t do that nearly as well as large, spinning mass generation.”

“And that’s why the loss of coal plants and natural gas plants and nuclear plants is so concerning from a grid reliability perspective,” he said.

“Grid transformation” has occurred throughout the U.S. for years as increasing numbers of reliable coal-fired power plants are retired, and renewable energy methods take their place. Activists claim the rapid shift away from carbon-based fuels to green energy is necessary to prevent the theoretical effects of climate change in the coming century.

David Tudor, CEO of the midwestern Associated Electric Cooperative, predicted the rapid retirement of fossil fuel power plants could bring about population-level deaths in the U.S.

“My concern is, you’ve got a gap period here that we have this push for new renewables and this push to shut down plants that work, and there’s nothing there in the middle to save us,” he said.

“I fear we are going to have blackouts, and I’m afraid we’re going to see a significant number of lives lost.”

Grid warning signs have been flashing at the state level as well. A panel of experts told the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee last month the state and the region were facing near-term power shortages due to the retirement of legacy plants in favor of newer, untested renewable source generation.

State Sen. Gene Yaw warned at the hearing that “short-sighted environmental policies” have “forced fossil fuel plants into nonexistence, resulting in fewer reliable energy sources to shoulder the burden of increased demand on Pennsylvania’s electrical grid.”

Also of concern is the number of jobs in Pennsylvania and elsewhere supported directly or indirectly by fossil fuels. A recent report found that fossil fuels, directly and indirectly, support over 400,000 jobs in Pennsylvania alone and millions across the country.

Neither of Pennsylvania’s federal senators appeared concerned about the possibility of electricity shortages in the state or nationwide. Casey, who did not respond to requests for comment, has supported the use of “tax credits for companies to build American-made clean energy facilities” and called upon the state to “increase the use of renewable energy” to address the climate crisis.

Sen. John Fetterman, meanwhile—who also did not respond to requests for comment—has claimed that the U.S. needs to “transition to clean energy as quickly as possible.” The freshman Democratic senator has shown a willingness to play politics on the question of energy, having reversed his position on fracking during his contentious run for Senate last year. But he has also supported extreme policies like carbon caps as a way to mitigate the possible dangers of climate change.

After the Senate hearing, Rich Nolan of the National Mining Association released a statement saying it was “impossible to listen to the testimony this morning, including from the nation’s top reliability regulator and from the CEO of our largest grid operator, and not conclude that we’re pushing aside existing, dispatchable generation – namely the nation’s coal capacity – far too quickly.”

“We are already in a grid reliability crisis, and the EPA’s regulatory onslaught is making an extraordinarily challenging situation all but unmanageable,” he said.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said most electrical generation in the U.S. continues to come from coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, and petroleum. Just around one-fifth of the total generation comes from renewables.

Robb told the senators his industry is doing its part on the infrastructure side to move the power, but that doesn’t solve the problem if there’s no power to move.

“The electric transmission grid is highly reliable and resilient,” he said. “Yet the risk profile to customers is steadily increasing.”

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Millions of U.S. Jobs Are at Risk From Climate Policy

Five and a half.

That’s the percentage of full- and part-time jobs in the U.S. economy attributable directly and indirectly to fossil fuels—a massive number, just under eleven million in total.

Those figures are from a timely report demonstrating just how much the U.S. benefits from fossil fuel-related employment—and how much it stands to potentially lose a green-new-deal policies loom on the horizon.

The analysis by consulting firm PwC carried out for the American Petroleum Institute found that the oil and natural gas industry’s “direct, indirect, and induced impacts” on the U.S. economy “amounted to 10.8 million full-time and part-time jobs and accounted for 5.4 percent of total U.S. employment in 2021.”

The industry’s “total impact on labor income,” meanwhile, was valued at “$908.7 billion, or 6.4 percent of the U.S. national labor income in 2021,” while the total impact on US GDP the same year was “nearly $1.8 trillion, accounting for 7.6 percent of the national total.”

Those economic benefits face an uncertain future as the Biden administration pushes aggressive green-energy policies that directly target fossil fuels. Critics say these anti-fossil-fuel measures also put the reliability of the U.S. electric grid at risk.

New rules by the Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, will soon begin mandating gargantuan emissions reductions from U.S. power plants, with experts warning of potential brownouts if less reliable sources like wind and solar can’t meet demand.

It could also threaten millions of U.S. jobs. Stephanie Wissman, the executive director of the American Petroleum Institute’s Pennsylvania branch, said U.S. energy regulation significantly hampers the ability of the industry to create even more employment.

“Job growth in any sector depends upon reforming our onerous regulatory processes,” she said. “Getting a project through a federal environmental review – one hurdle among many – now takes an average of 4.5 years.”

“As global energy demand is projected to increase, policies should support American energy and infrastructure development and the millions of skilled workers across the country who produce and deliver the energy that powers our everyday lives,” she added.

“What’s needed now is comprehensive permitting reform.”

Advocates of energy reform have argued that policymakers can both move the energy grid to renewable fuels while providing relief for workers thrown out of employment due to industry disruptions. Robert Routh, a public policy and regulatory attorney for the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council, pointed to a recent state-level proposal to create an “Energy Communities Trust Fund” to address those concerns.

That measure, he said, would create grant programs for “workforce development and worker training; supplemental unemployment compensation for displaced energy workers; and funding to school districts or municipalities affected by the closure of an energy facility.”

Whether or not politicians are capable of patching the job losses from green energy policies remains to be seen. Government attempts to compensate for lost economic activity often come up woefully short, as the U.S. saw during the COVID crisis when the federal government attempted to make up for billions and billions of dollars in lost economic activity by giving Americans payments ranging from $600 to $1,400.

Fossil fuels, of course, remain firmly embedded in the complex web of the U.S. economy. PwC noted that oil and natural gas exploration and production involve, variously, the mining sector, the manufacturing sector, the transportation sector, the utilities sector, and the wholesale and retail trade sectors.

Joe Trotter with the American Legislative Exchange Council said policymakers must tread carefully when looking to radically change something as critical and as massive as the U.S. energy industry.

“The hardworking folks that keep the lights on for America and our allies have families they need to feed and provide for every single day,” he said, “so any attempt at transitioning the workforce needs to be absolutely seamless, or else workers and their dependents will suffer.”

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Energy Execs Warn of Looming PA Power Shortages

“At the current trajectory, PJM is not going to have sufficient power to meet the demands of consumers, and prices are likely to increase.”

That dire warning came from Glen Thomas, president of the industry group PJM Power Providers, at a state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee briefing earlier this week addressing the pressing concern of electrical grid reliability in Pennsylvania.

Grid operator PJM distributes power across 13 states from Illinois to North Carolina from its headquarters in suburban Philadelphia. The company doesn’t generate electricity or operate power plants. Instead, its primary mission is to “ensure the safety, reliability, and security of the bulk electric power system,” including here in Pennsylvania.

And that mission, Thomas warned lawmakers, is in danger as reliable power sources continue to be retired from the grid—something that’s occurring “faster than anticipated.”

Thomas told DVJournal that “demand is increasing, supply is retiring, and it’s not being replaced by the quantity of assets necessary to sustain reliability.”

“It’s a pretty simple supply-and-demand issue,” he said. “Electricity markets are complicated, but the problem itself is that demand is going up, and supply is leaving and not being replaced.”

At the briefing, committee Chairman Gene Yaw (R-Bradford) blamed green-energy politics for the pace of power source retirements.

“Short-sighted environmental policies have forced fossil fuel plants into nonexistence, resulting in fewer reliable energy sources to shoulder the burden of increased demand on Pennsylvania’s electrical grid,” Yaw said.

James Locher, the chief operating officer of Key Con LLC, also spoke at the briefing, laying out how much Pennsylvania households still rely on fossil fuel-generated energy. Key Con LLC manages the large Keystone and Conemaugh coal plants in western Pennsylvania. Locher said these plants deliver “3,400 MW of reliable power” into the PJM system.

And during weather events like 2022’s Winter Storm Elliott, his plant becomes absolutely essential. As the cyclone bomb drove temperatures down and demand up, PJM called for customers to conserve electricity use as it struggled to find power sources to meet demand.

“Without adequate and comparably reliable replacement capacity accounting for the contributions of Keystone, Conemaugh, and other coal-fired units,” Locher said, “future electric power system failures in PJM are more likely during similar extreme weather events.”

PJM itself has been undertaking extensive research to determine the scope of the grid retirement crisis it is currently facing. In research published earlier this year, a company analysis predicted a whopping 21 percent of its “current installed capacity” could be out of commission within seven years, with the largest share of those closures, PJM estimated, potentially coming from government regulations.

The company estimates “40 GW of existing generation … at risk of retirement by 2030.” Breaking it down, PJM projected “6 GW of 2022 deactivations, 6 GW of announced retirements, 25 GW of potential policy-driven retirements, and 3 GW of potential economic retirements.”

Thomas said it could be difficult to determine the effects of environmental policies on costs versus outright closures of plants. “If an environmental regulation changes, and that increases the costs associated with a unit’s ability to produce power, and it’s forced to retire, is that a policy retirement, or an economic retirement?”

“Very few of these policies are mandating retirement,” he posited, “they’re just increasing costs associated with these facilities until they’re no longer economically viable.”

Demand will also rise in the near future, the PJM analysis said, ranging from 1.4 percent to localized 7 percent surges. And what the grid loses in legacy generation, the analysis said, it will not make up for in next-gen renewables.

Thomas told DVJournal that “right now, the market rules are set up in such a way that most units are receiving an economic signal to retire.”

“If we can change those economic rules so that those economic signals change, I believe there is an opportunity to turn this around,” he said. “But on the current trajectory, with the current rules in place, this region is going to be short of power” in the next few years.

PJM’s “New Services Queue” consists “primarily of renewables (94 percent) and gas (6 percent),” the analysis said. The “historical rate of completion for renewable projects has been approximately 5 percent,” PJM noted, and “the current pace of new entry would be insufficient to keep up with expected retirements and demand growth by 2030.”

Yaw pointed out that Pennsylvania’s access to electricity isn’t determined by what happens in its borders.

“What other states do has a great effect on the grid. For example, any of the [PJM] states that say they’re going to go completely green or clean or whatever you want to call it — they say they’re not going to use any more fossil fuel. Well, that means they’re going to rely on someone else to provide power for them in those times when these clean and green energy projects don’t work. They’re intermittent; they depend on the time of day. The example I use is: Where does the power come from for a solar array at 3 o’clock in the morning?”

Yaw said the effect of current and upcoming plant closures could take as much energy off the grid to equal about 40,000 acres of solar panels. “We don’t have 40,000 acres of solar panels in the works. I’m not even sure where we would put 40,000 acres of solar panels.”

“If we keep giving PJM the policy that we’re doing by switching over without a plan behind it, I don’t know what the solution is,” he said.

“There are two solutions: There will be certain times when you operate your appliances or charge your car or whatever, or there will be rolling blackouts. Neither of those sounds like they’re very good options to me.”

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Advocates Push for LNG Terminal in Philadelphia at Task Force Hearing

A Thursday hearing of the state’s Philadelphia Liquid Natural Gas Export Task Force saw industry experts argue for the construction of a natural gas terminal at the Port of Philadelphia, with one advocate claiming natural gas is “necessary to power the economies of the world” as more and more countries move toward renewables.

The Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus said on its website the hearing was meant to “receive testimony from various stakeholders regarding safety and security considerations for a potential liquefied natural gas export terminal in or around the Port of Philadelphia.”

David Cuff, a captain with the Pilots’ Association For the Bay And River Delaware, whose organization is “responsible for the safe navigation of commercial vessels on the Delaware River and Bay and its tributaries,” told the panel ships transporting liquid natural gas to the Philadelphia port would pose no special safety challenges.

“We treat every ship and handle every ship the same,” he said. “We bring ships into the port of Philadelphia with 12,000 containers on them. We’re not told what’s on those containers. What we care about is if the ship is safe and handles well.”

Cuff suggested there was little reason to be concerned about traffic volume surrounding a new LNG terminal.

“Speaking to the pilots and the Coast Guard in sector Maryland with Cove Point, it does not disrupt any traffic down there,” he said.

“This is stuff that we’re all learning,” he added. “But it does not disrupt any flow coming in and out of Norfolk or the Port of Baltimore.”

Lisa Himber, president of the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay, told the panel the terminal’s economic benefits could be hugely impactful for the surrounding region. She pointed to the Port of Philadelphia’s already-outsized effect on employment.

“An exchange study from 2021 found that over 156,000 jobs depend upon the regional port, and over 50,000 of those are directly related,” she said.

“The foremost benefit [of the LNG terminal] from our perspective must be the economic impact,” she noted.

The task force was created last November by outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf. Talks of an LNG facility in or near Philadelphia have been in the works for years.

Former Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who left Congress earlier this year and now serves on the leadership council of the pro-gas group Natural Allies, argued that natural gas can help with “defeating global coal use, increasing American competitiveness in the world, enhancing our global security and ultimately driving down global carbon emissions.”

“In the absence of natural gas, the world burns dirtier forms of energy, primarily coal,” Ryan argued.

“Unless decision makers are willing to advance permitting reforms and approve the infrastructure necessary to move natural gas where it’s needed,” he said, then it will be “nearly impossible to achieve our global climate goals.”

Ryan pointed to recent energy shockwaves in Europe, where officials were reduced to “restarting mothballed coal plants to keep the lights on following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s also true here at home where regions like New England have faced natural gas shortages each winter after years of political posture and blocking new natural gas pipeline expansions.

“Pennsylvania sits at the edge of one of the largest natural gas supplies in the world,” Ryan pointed out, “making it a huge economic benefit to capitalize on LNG potential.”

He argued natural gas is “necessary to power the economies of the world as we scale up renewables.”

Not all attendees were supportive of the terminal proposal. Adam Nagel, the campaign manager for the clean energy nonprofit Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, said his organization has “actively opposed the expansion of LNG facilities” in the state “through advocacy and litigation.”

Nagel argued that there was an “inherent danger in the installation and operation of an export terminal in the Port of Philadelphia.” He said that an accident at a gas terminal could pose critical risks to communities surrounding the Philadelphia port.

“Serious concerns exist with the city of Philadelphia’s ability to manage crises,” Nagel said, pointing to the recent spillage of toxic chemicals in nearby Bucks County.

State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) asked Ryan how he would respond to Nagel’s claims about the risks of transporting and storing natural gas.

“We’ve been exporting [LNG],” Ryan responded. “It’s on the seas; it’s safe, it’s reliable. No major catastrophes have happened. This is just something that we need to continue to do.”

Nagel admitted his organization would still oppose the terminal even if safety concerns were addressed. “There’s still the question of environmental safety and security and public health, safety and security,” he said.

“From a public health and environmental health, safety, and security standpoint, I do not believe we could ever get to a place where we would support such a terminal in the Port of Philadelphia,” he said.

Dustin Meyer, the vice president of natural gas markets at the American Petroleum Institute, echoed Tim Ryan’s earlier suggestion that natural gas is only one way an economy should be powered.

State Rep. Joe Hohenstesin asked Meyer whether regulators should “take it on faith and trust that the natural gas industry is going to also see itself as the bridge fuel to renewables.” Meyer countered that the natural gas industry “would never suggest that natural gas needs to be or should be a hundred percent of electricity generation.

“I think most people would agree is that the electricity generation portfolio of any given region or state or country is going to be much more diverse 10 years from now, 20 years from now than what it is today,” he said.

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