Out of Step

December 16, 2019By: Davitt Woodwell
PEC Blog

Davitt Woodwell President

As 2019 comes to an end, and more than a year since the release of the 4th National Climate Assessment, it remains clear that the federal government has abdicated responsibility for even trying to slow the accelerating march of climate change. The outlook here in Pennsylvania may not prove any better, at least in the General Assembly, where some have voiced their determination not to lead on this pressing issue.

While political posturing is nothing new, it does reflect a legislature acting out of step with its constituency – not just citizens, but even the very investors, businesses, and companies they claim to be protecting.

Even the natural gas industry is calling for carbon pricing — precisely the market-driven mechanism that some in Harrisburg are now trying to preempt.

From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Goldman Sachs to the federal Department of Defense – not to mention the majority of Pennsylvanians – all have recognized the science of, and need to act on, climate change. Just last week, the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) joined the call by supporting carbon tax policy. Yes, precisely the market-driven mechanism that some in Harrisburg are now trying to preempt.

H.B. 2025, introduced in November, would effectively block Pennsylvania from joining a multi-state carbon trading market like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

NGSA’s members include many of the most prominent shale gas production companies in the Commonwealth – Anadarko, ExxonMobil, EQT, Shell, Southwestern, and Chevron. These are companies that recognize the critical nature of climate change not just for society but also for their business futures. In fact, one of the best explanations of what needs to happen to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Accords was produced by Shell two years ago – what it called its “Sky Scenario.”

Dena Wiggins, the President and CEO of NGSA, stated that: “We want to create a clean energy future that is affordable for all and we believe a price on carbon will help get us there. Pricing carbon will help reduce carbon emissions now, while encouraging the development of innovative technologies like carbon capture that will drastically reduce or even eliminate emissions in the future.”

As the nation’s largest electricity exporter, Pennsylvania has an opportunity — and a responsibility — to lead the way on decarbonization.

That statement may seem shocking to some, but we at PEC believe that the key to getting actionable and meaningful reductions in our climate-killing emissions is to engage the markets and to do it yesterday. That is why we have consistently called for a mix of actions that take us to net-zero emissions in a technologically agnostic way: meaning, essentially, that any generation source can play so long as it moves toward no carbon emissions or equivalents as by-products.

A transparent, market-driven program to reduce Pennsylvania’s emissions in partnership with other states – is exactly what those in the energy industry are calling for. Yet, some in the General Assembly are looking to stop it; even asking for help from the oil and gas industry to do so.

NGSA’s Dena Wiggins continues: “We believe a national carbon pricing plan across all sectors would achieve the best results, but if states are designing individual approaches to reducing emissions right now, we urge them to incorporate a price on carbon in power markets, ideally coordinated with other states. Working together, we can do this.”

We could not agree more.

Pennsylvania must join its neighboring states and do what the scientific community, the business community, the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, and common sense demand.

Pennsylvania faces a choice of two paths. One path is entrenched inaction, pouring time and expense into a bet that Pennsylvania can succeed without clean energy, and that the economic and environmental storm of climate change will dissipate. The other path is to embrace reality and opportunity, as well the call of the people, businesses, and communities of the Commonwealth, and advance a positive energy and climate future for Pennsylvania.

The choice is clear: if the federal government will not act, Pennsylvania must join its neighboring states and do what the scientific community, the business community, the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, and common sense demand. It’s past time for the General Assembly to get on the right side of history and embrace carbon pricing as a reasonable and cost-effective response to the challenge we face.

Share This Page