Tom Wolf’s reaction to the Obama White House’s Clean Power Plan, which would regulate emissions from existing energy producers for the first time, is a perfect example of why it’s so important for Democrats to vote every single November, not just every four years.
Wolf doesn’t shy away from the fact that hitting these new emissions targets will be a big challenge for Pennsylvania, where coal still accounts for about a third of our energy production, and which will have to achieve more ambitious emission reduction targets than the average state.
But crucially, he’s saying it’s a challenge he wants to take on, and he’s committed to doing what’s necessary to succeed.
You know what the response would have been had Tom Corbett been reelected. It would have been some combination of the hair-on-fire response you’re hearing from the PA Chamber and Republican legislators, and the saddo response from the coal corporations. Too hard! Too mean to coal! Scary noises about higher electric bills!
For Republicans, every imaginable setback becomes an excuse to do nothing, whereas for Wolf and other climate hawks in the Democratic Party, these are challenges that call public officials to rise to the occasion. The difference couldn’t be more stark.
The fact is that the Clean Power Plan would only accelerate a natural and ongoing process where coal plants are being mothballed and replaced with new natural gas plants due to cheap natural gas prices. It’s even arguable that PA Republican “frack, baby, frack” policies may be substantially responsible for the success of the War on Coal thus far.
And while it’s true CPP doesn’t prescribe a big medium-term ramp-up in natural gas market share at the national level, in Pennsylvania at least it’s hard to see how natural gas wouldn’t be the main beneficiary for the foreseeable future, during which time renewable industries will play catch-up at a much more rapid pace.
We’ve already cut our carbon emissions significantly by encouraging natural gas to eclipse coal, and the result has been cheaper power bills. The Obama administration argues that CPP will actually reduce power bills over the long term, as renewables are much cheaper to produce than fossil fuel energy once the infrastructure is in place.
Just today, a new report concluded with the chilling finding that fugitive methane leakage from gas drilling may greatly exceed previous estimates. Methane is right up there with carbon dioxide on the list of greenhouse gases we need to curtail, so this really drives home the urgency of action on climate change, and the need to pass a holistic suite of regulations for extractive industries that addresses all the known risks and emissions sources.