renewable energy at schools
Credit: Generation180

Western Pennsylvania can meet its climate goals — if the region stops subsidizing natural gas

A new proposed plan would lead to a 97% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and create 15,353 new jobs by 2050.

PITTSBURGH — Western Pennsylvania could meet ambitious climate goals and save billions of dollars by replacing natural gas with renewable energy sources, according to a new proposal.


The plan, created by Strategen, a clean-energy consulting firm, details how 10 southwestern Pennsylvania counties can transition to clean energy, which would put the region on track to meet the International Panel on Climate Change goals of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of severe climate change.

According to the report, western Pennsylvania produces emissions at a rate nearly double the state average, and 72% of the region’s energy is generated from fossil fuels. A transition to renewables would result in a 97% reduction in climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions from the region’s power sector by 2050, creating environmental and health benefits of nearly $4.2 billion annually. The plan is projected to create 12,416 jobs by 2035 and nearly 3,000 additional jobs, for a total of 15,353 by 2050.

The report, which was created on behalf of the Ohio River Valley Institute, a progressive think tank, differs significantly from previous energy transition plans created for the region, all of which rely on continued use of natural gas and require expensive technology like carbon capture to meet emission goals.

“We hope that these findings inform the discussion and help guide the region toward embracing a clean energy transition that promises to greatly benefit Pennsylvanians economically, socially and environmentally — all at a lower cost than doubling down on fossil fuels and expensive investments in carbon capture,” Joe Goodenbery, lead author of the report and senior manager at Strategen, said in a statement.

Sean O’Leary, a senior researcher at the Ohio River Valley Institute, said the organization will spend the next year reaching out to policymakers at the state and local level to share the report and discuss the potential for a clean energy transition as an economic development platform in the region.

Clean energy jobs

The proposal outlines four ways western Pennsylvania can transition away from its reliance on fossil fuels: Developing local clean energy resources, importing clean energy from the existing energy market, investing in energy efficiency and electrifying buildings and transportation.

It also promises to create more jobs and economic prosperity than the fossil fuel industry. Much of the job creation in the plan comes from investing in energy efficiency and electrification — which requires labor to make buildings more energy-efficient and shift heating and energy sources from natural gas to electricity, including door and window replacements, the installment of new insulation and replacing heat and ventilation systems in buildings and homes.

A previous report by the Ohio River Valley Institute detailed how the Washington State town of Centralia (not to be confused with the Pennsylvania town of the same name) replaced 300 jobs that were lost when a coal-fired power plant closed with 2,800 jobs related to energy efficiency.

“This should be completely replicable in our region,” Sean O’Leary, a senior researcher at the Ohio River Valley Institute, told EHN. “This plan creates local jobs and results in energy bill savings, which also increases disposable income and leads to greater local economic development.”

“So often these discussions get cast in terms of jobs vs the environment,” he added. “It’s exciting that in this case, what’s best for the environment is also the best local economic policy.”

DeSantis & Florida climate denial
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

DeSantis eliminates climate change from Florida's energy policy

Florida will no longer prioritize climate change in energy decisions, despite facing severe environmental threats, after Governor Ron DeSantis signed new legislation.

Anna Phillips reports for The Washington Post.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less
biodiversity resilience
Credit: Don Henderson/Flickr

Protecting species from extinction is not enough

The loss of species abundance poses a serious threat to biodiversity and ecosystem functionality.

John Reid reports for The Atlantic.

Keep reading...Show less

North Atlantic's record heat waves may fuel an intense hurricane season

A marine heat wave in the North Atlantic has set daily temperature records for over a year, raising concerns about its potential to drive an unusually severe hurricane season.

Chelsea Harvey reports for E&E News.

Keep reading...Show less

US imposes tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles to protect domestic industry

President Joe Biden's administration has increased tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, a move supported by U.S. automakers to shield local jobs and investments from low-cost imports.

Neal E. Boudette reports for The New York Times.

Keep reading...Show less

US banks facilitate clean energy transition through municipal bond market

The use of municipal bonds to finance clean energy initiatives is gaining traction, enabling significant savings for towns and communities in their pursuit of renewable energy goals.

Meg Duff reports for Capital & Main.

Keep reading...Show less

Rising tides increase fecal bacteria in coastal waters, study finds

High tide events now bring more than just seawater to North Carolina's beaches; they also raise the risk of fecal contamination in coastal waters.

Liz McLaughlin reports for WRAL.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
air pollution pittsburgh

Amidst a controversial international sale, U.S. Steel falls behind in cleaner steelmaking

U.S. Steel’s proposed sale to Nippon Steel stokes concerns over labor rights and national security, all while the company continues to break clean air laws in Western Pennsylvania.

exxon houston petrochemicals

Spanish-speaking residents feel left out of permitting process at massive Exxon petrochemical plant in Houston-area

“It is important to ensure meaningful engagement efforts are inclusive and accessible to all diverse members of our communities.”

youth climate change

"Our lives might be on the line"

Eighth graders reflect on the state of the planet.

sargassum

After 13 years, no end in sight for Caribbean sargassum invasion

Thousands of people were hurt by sargassum blooms last year in the Caribbean.

youth climate change

“We should take care of what is precious to us"

Eighth graders reflect on the state of the planet.

earth day 2024

Earth Day reflections from the next generation

This week we're featuring essays from Houston-area eighth graders to hear what the youth think about the state of our planet.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.