In Pennsylvania, Will Josh Shapiro Unlock Decades of Affordable Energy?

by Gordon Tomb

With Democrat Josh Shapiro as a newly inaugurated governor and a new legislative body, Pennsylvania will either shine as an energy superstar or continue down the dim path of economic decline.

The commonwealth is a national leader in energy production despite being stifled by onerous regulations, market-distorting subsidies and an irrational hostility toward fossil fuels.

Shapiro’s energy policies will have implications for the power grid’s reliability throughout the Northeast, thousands of jobs in the coal and natural gas industries, and the competitiveness of manufacturers statewide. Residential electricity rates—already up an average of 73 percent since 2020—will continue to erode Pennsylvania’s competitiveness unless the status quo changes.

In 2021, the Keystone State exported more electricity than any other state, according to the Independent Fiscal Office. The U.S. Energy Information Administration lists Pennsylvania as the second-largest net supplier of total energy to other states, after Texas, and the third-largest coal-producing state, after Wyoming and West Virginia. Pennsylvania natural gas production hit a record 7.6 trillion cubic feet in 2021, second only to Texas.

Energy producers managed that despite a regulatory regime inclined to abuse its authority. For example, the Department of Environmental Resources (DEP) of the previous governor, Tom Wolf, tried to impose new regulations on coal mines that directly contradict existing law. DEP withdrew the proposal only after the Independent Regulatory Review Commission disapproved it.

During his tenure, Wolf repeatedly attempted to enact a severance tax on natural gas—an industry already burdened by more than $6 billion in special taxes and fees over the last decade. In 2019, Wolf began his unilateral push for entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), while being opposed by legislators, labor unions, and the public. RGGI, currently under review in the courts, is a carbon tax on electricity generators that would cost Pennsylvania consumers $800 million a year and simply move most of the emissions to neighboring states.

Will Shapiro take a more reasonable approach to energy regulation?

Shapiro’s been lukewarm about the carbon tax, saying it’s “not clear” whether RGGI would “address climate change, protect and create energy jobs and ensure Pennsylvania has reliable, affordable and clean power for the long term.”

With allies in both the environmental and labor communities, Shapiro’s campaign rhetoric alternately addressed the interests of both—speaking sometimes of permitting reform to speed approvals of energy projects and other times of severely restricting gas-well drilling. “Josh refuses to accept the false choice between protecting jobs or protecting our planet,” said his campaign website.

As attorney general, Shapiro charged natural gas drillers and pipeline operators with criminality for offenses ordinarily handled as civil matters. Industry supporters worry that such treatment dampens business investment in the state. The environmental left labels Shapiro’s criminal prosecutions of producers as only a “slap on the wrist.”

What we do know is that Shapiro proposes to increase alternative energy’s share of retail electricity sales from 18 to 30 percent—a 67 percent boost. The alternative energy program already costs consumers $104 million a year in subsidies and puts power plants fueled by coal or gas at a disadvantage.

While some regulations are important for health and safety, there are too many onerous restrictions that keep the state from producing affordable energy. Shapiro should support a constitutional amendment that ensures the legislature can review and disapprove regulations that unduly restrict energy production. Elected representatives, not unelected bureaucrats, should have the final say over these expansive and costly regulations.

Shapiro should also back regulatory reform that allows power plants and well drillers to continue to operate and employ tens of thousands of people. Three at-risk power plants alone support more than 8,000 jobs.

Finally, Shapiro should withdraw from the RGGI carbon tax and streamline regulations on the state’s fossil fuel industry. This would promote affordable energy production and power grid stability and help unleash Pennsylvania’s energy potential.

In 2023, championing good energy policy will be crucial for Shapiro. Developing Pennsylvania’s deposits of natural gas and coal would enhance its role as a global powerhouse and promote the well-being of Pennsylvanians. But further restricting Pennsylvania’s energy potential will continue to drive investments, jobs, and people out of the state.

This commentary was first published at Real Clear Energy, January 22, 2023, and can be accessed here.

Gordon Tomb is a senior fellow with the Commonwealth Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based free-market think tank and a senior advisor with the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. 

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January 23, 2023 2:09 pm

Shapiro and Fetterman both campaigned on ending fracking in the state. I expect nothing less than a concerted effort do just that.

Reply to  starzmom
January 23, 2023 3:32 pm

They’ll be handing out heroin, fentanyl and tranq.

Reply to  starzmom
January 23, 2023 9:22 pm

Good news, they no longer need to worry about CO2 emissions, XBox is going to save the day.

story tip

Reply to  starzmom
January 24, 2023 3:57 am

Flusteredman, not Fetterman

David Dibbell
January 23, 2023 2:15 pm

Let’s hope that better sense prevails in PA. At least that provides an adjacent contrast for us here in NY as we sit on top of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations with a fracking ban and hostility to pipeline extensions.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  David Dibbell
January 23, 2023 2:26 pm

Based on Shapiro and Fetterman campaign positions, PA is becoming as bad as NY. Let’s hope PA voters get what they deserve—higher energy prices and a worse economy—since that is what they voted for.
Lesson for PA Repubs: next time pick a Senate candidate who clearly lives in the state, and a governor candidate more centrist in a purple state.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 23, 2023 2:30 pm

The Dem standard is to elect candidates who do not live in the state–Hillary didn’t have a residence in NY until after she was elected to the Senate. That said, the Republicans didn’t do their best with Oz, and the state elected a guy with brain damage. No one has heard or seen much of him since.

Reply to  starzmom
January 23, 2023 2:58 pm

The Democrats have a long history of electing dead people, they did it again this past year.
Electing someone who’s clearly brain damaged is nothing for them.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  MarkW
January 23, 2023 4:05 pm

He (Fetterman) has been awfully busy Mark, as indicated by the two (2) news items from his Senate website:



Tom Abbott
Reply to  starzmom
January 24, 2023 1:25 am

“That said, the Republicans didn’t do their best with Oz”

Oz was a much better choice than Fetterman. Anyone who can’t see that is braindead themselves, just like Fetterman. That comment was not directed at you, starzmom. I don’t think you are braindead. 🙂

In Pennsylvania we have Morons electing other Morons.

The problem with the morons getting what they deserve in voing for morons is that the difficulties morons cause in Pennsylvania spill over into other States that didn’t vote for Pennsylvania morons.

Last edited 2 months ago by Tom Abbott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
January 24, 2023 4:44 am

I agree that Oz was a better choice, but I don’t vote in PA. I do spend a lot of time in PA and pay attention to the politics. My best hope for the current senator is that he doesn’t do his job in Washington. He has a record of no-show jobs and he is brain damaged, so maybe this will happen.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
January 24, 2023 11:38 am

Problem is that PA elections are dominated by Philadelphia and Pittsburgh bolshiecrat corruption. Nobody outside those areas voted for those 2 idiots.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  slowroll
January 24, 2023 4:48 pm

Good point.

Reply to  starzmom
January 24, 2023 5:53 am

Hillary followed in the footsteps of Bobbie Kennedy who claimed the NY Senate seat while brothers Jack and Teddy used homestate MA.

Rud Istvan
January 23, 2023 2:17 pm

These questions are mainly rhetorical, because Shapiro and Mastroianni made their positions clear during the PA governor campaign. Shapiro wants to increase regulatory burdens on natgas fracking, and double PA renewables. Standard Dem stuff. Coal is not the PA big deal it used to be.

Tom Halla
January 23, 2023 2:19 pm

Shapiro is a Democrat, so I expect the worst.

Reply to  Tom Halla
January 23, 2023 3:00 pm

The few sane Democrats have been driven from the party. It will probably take most Democrat voters at least a generation to figure that out.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  MarkW
January 23, 2023 3:06 pm

I was a sane Repub driven from the party to NPA status by the nomination of John McCain in 2008. Will never go back. Get to spend money on individual candidates rather than parties. BTW, in 2008 voted for Colin Powell as a protest write in.

John Hultquist
January 23, 2023 3:36 pm

Pennsylvania — my home state.
Love it or leave it.
I left.
Last visited 22 years ago. 😁🧑‍🎄

michael hart
January 23, 2023 5:00 pm

Most politicians who like to play the environment card still get it badly wrong when addressing their activist constituencies. Environmental protections in Pennsylvania only need to be better than those in China in order to get conditions in China to improve. In the long term that matters far more than a little bit of CO2 here or there somewhere in PA.

Bankrupting industry in Pennsylvania with excessively idealistic regulation will just move it to China, where environmental protections are far far worse.
This is not a new argument. It is a very very old argument. I think most people would agree with it. Yet so few people act as if they believe it when the first NIMBY appears in a media commentary.

Demanding a perfect ‘environment’ where everybody loses in the long term at the expense of demanding a good environment where everybody wins in the long term should be the aim.
I guess going for the immediate big win still seems to make everybody feel better about themselves

Ron Long
January 23, 2023 5:36 pm

Alex, I’ll take “NO” for a million bucks, and no checks this time.

January 23, 2023 6:16 pm

Josh Shapiro? The lie spewing piece of crap who spews lies unendingly? That Josh Shapiro? And Uncle Fester, the lie spewing piece of crap who can’t even string together a coherent sentence? What is amazing is outside of Phithydelphia and Allegheny County you cannot find anyone who will admit they voted for these [snip]. Imagine that.

January 23, 2023 10:21 pm

For 3000 years bloodletting was considered an effective way to treat disease. It wasn’t dicredited until the 1800’s. No matter how many times it failed, it was cited as standard practice that could not be wrong. Reading the history, I wondered how people could be so foolish about something that obviously did not work.

I’m watching the climate debate devolve into lust for self harm and I think to myself, history repeats itself.

It doesnot add up
January 24, 2023 2:49 am

Not sure how much influence Pa. has in PJM. They can certainly make a mess of shale exploitation though.

January 27, 2023 9:05 am

It’s amazing to me living in PA that I have one of the highest gasoline taxes, very expensive electricity, coal is scare and I am unable to have CNG, which is much cheaper than heating oil or gasoline, delivered to my home. ( CNG is 2.88, propane is 3.55 and gasoline is 3.95.heating oil is 4.00).

Hydrocarbon market collusion, politics and regulation mean I do not benefit from PA massive NG, coal, and Oil reserves any more than the man on the moon. This is the reason many people in my area burn wood for heat… no tax and it’s cheaper. My guess is that their will be a economic/regulatory push to move more and more people off the land into the cities.

Shapiro is totally political and will not do anything to alarm his left consistency because they are loud and mobilized the votes for him. I fully expect him to shoot PA in the foot regarding energy.

The state is flooded with a surplus of COVID cash. Healthcare is the business in PA not energy. NG 2 billion. Health Care: 34 billion.

Reply to  JC
January 27, 2023 9:42 am

The global energy market place does not want the world flooded with NG, CNG and LNG. The energy companies are making plenty of money controlling the supply side and they do it with political action, lobby, regulations funding climate change propaganda, and pushing for carbon taxes. Russia spent ( and is likely still spending) millions if not billions covertly funding climate change propaganda because if it’s energy market interests. Why wouldn’t any of the other energy companies do the same? Why invest in increasing supply when you are making a mint with the status quo?

Climate change and hostility towards Fossil Fuels is a wonderful thing if you want to keep NG in the ground. There is no actual risk to the energy companies pushing the climate change propaganda machine cause they know, just like we do, renewables won’t cut the mustard. They prefer to continue selling fossil fuel at top dollar for many decades to come. The radical left environmentalist are just playing into the Energy Industries status quo.,,, they are totally leveraged by the big boys. The little energy guys are the ones getting the axe. So much for our global energy market. Shapiro doesn’t care about the little energy producers…which we need in our community in PA cause we are paying through the nose for energy.

It is no coincidence that the avalanche of climate change propaganda, lobbying and political action at every level of our society begin in earnest after MIT reported in 2008 on the extent of NG in he US, which is colossal. That report is a water shed point for the new era of global markets, politics and culture.

Thousands of years worth of (NG in NY, PA and TX) global energy supply alarmed both the supply side and the Malthusian Alarmist folks who did not want cheap energy for fear of colossal population growth and human wrecking of Mother Earth.. Since then, a dystopian anthropomorphic ethic and aesthetic has been promulgated to the point it has been completely entrenched in the zeitgeist of our age. It has the rigor of urban myth but that does not matter. It has changed our culture. It has resulted in the shunting of human society into a program of urban socialistic control and reduced fertility. Hollywood has become the dystopian promulgator bar none.

What happened to art, music, film, literature in the past 15 years? It went nowhere…right!. Is any one uplifted and made hopeful by it…. is there any unity brought by it. No only division.

Instead of happy people living on the land embowered by cheap energy and the dream of a better tomorrow…. stimulating imaginations and innovation we have a centralized program in our hands controlling us and zapping us of our dreams. We have threats and fear, war, pandemics, anxiety, and a loss of hope….and plenty of free government money. (they really do have our best interests in mind…..? tongue and cheek). Shapiro, let your PA flourish don’t listen to WEF non-sense..

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