On The Right Course To Clearner Air
Market forces already have set Pennsylvania on the path to achieving some of the anti-pollution goals that Gov. Tom Wolf recently established in an executive order. That, rapidly advancing energy technology and emerging public policy, make the goals practical and achievable. Wolf called for a 26 percent reduction in total statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. That sounds daunting. But largely due to the ongoing replacement of coal-fueled power plants with less-polluting natural gas-fueled plants, Pennsylvania already is more than half way to the 2025 goal. Market forces also are favorable to other aspects of Wolf’s order. For example, it calls for replacing 25 percent of passenger cars statewide with battery electric and plug-in electric hybrid cars by 2025. All major vehicle producers, including of buses and trucks, have similar goals for their global markets and have invested in electric propulsion and battery technology. The order also calls for the state government itself to acquire 40 percent of its electricity from sources that use renewable fuel, which also is doable because rapid growth of renewable energy has driven down its price. Wolf’s goals mirror those of the 2015 Paris Accord on Climate Change, from which President Donald Trump has begun to withdraw the United States. But 20 states — now including Pennsylvania — and scores of major U.S. cities plan to meet those goals, which will drive the energy markets regardless of federal policy. The effort is not just state-by-state but regional. Dec. 18, for example, Pennsylvania joined Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and the District of Columbia in the Transportation and Climate Initiative of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. Its objective is cap greenhouse emissions from transportation in the region through greater use of mass transit, zero-emission vehicles, and energy-efficient transportation technology. Cleaner air and better public health alone are worthy goals, but such initiatives also recognize that clean-energy technology also is a growing major industry with its own economic merit. The initiatives are the right course for the state and the region.