Jim Snell: Carbon capture and storage is key to sustaining Pennsylvania’s energy dominance

Pennsylvania’s transition to low-carbon energy holds enormous opportunity for working men and women throughout our region. Over the coming decades, technologies like carbon capture and storage and hydrogen have the potential to be just as meaningful to our commonwealth’s economic and environmental future as our prolific natural gas development. If Pennsylvania continues to make smart investments in these safe, proven advancements that enhance our existing energy and manufacturing industries, you can bet that Pennsylvania’s skilled tradesmen will be ready to meet growing global demand for low-carbon products. 

With the recent announcement of the MACH2 Hydrogen Hub spanning Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, we’re already seeing the promise that these transformational projects can bring. The U.S. Department of Energy is poised to invest $750 million dollars to kickstart production of enough clean, carbon-free energy to reduce emissions from boilers and engines by approximately one million metric tons per year. This investment is projected to bring upwards of 20,000 good-paying jobs to our region, putting skilled pipefitters, electricians, carpenters, welders and other essential building trades to work constructing this infrastructure. We should do everything we can to support the ongoing effort to make the United States a world leader in hydrogen made by American workers. 

Just as natural gas revived the Marcus Hooks Industrial Complex in Delaware County and other facilities across the state, low-carbon infrastructure can breathe a second or third life into factories and power generators that underpin neighborhoods and towns. Our energy generation and manufacturing industries contribute about half of all US emissions but also employ hundreds of thousands of workers in Pennsylvania. Rather than closing these important facilities, by capturing emissions from operations before they reach the atmosphere, we can continue employing these skilled workers to produce the energy and goods we depend on every day in the most responsible way possible. 

As the second-largest natural gas-producing state in the nation, millions of people depend on our state’s resources for affordable electricity and fuel. Pennsylvania currently generates four percent of our electricity from renewable sources, and it will take decades to build out a reliable electrical grid that can provide reliable power without vast amounts of natural gas.

Carbon capture and storage and hydrogen are uniquely able to reduce carbon emissions from energy-intensive industries like power generation, petrochemical production, cement and steel manufacturing and other difficult-to-decarbonize sectors in a way that most renewable energy cannot. Leading energy experts, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, have stated that expanding carbon capture and storage is the only viable pathway to decarbonize these heavy-emitting industries at the rate we need to reach the nation’s ambitious climate goals.

For urban regions like Philadelphia, carbon capture and storage is a boon to both climate and air quality improvement efforts. By expanding this technology, we can continue to do our part to reduce planet-warming gases like CO2 and methane while making progress toward slashing air pollutants. Recent studies have shown that carbon capture technology also reduces emissions of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter, which translates to better health outcomes for our most vulnerable residents.

Before we fall behind other leading energy states, Pennsylvanians can come together to support strong bipartisan legislation that advances carbon capture and storage deployment in our state and prioritizes our local environmental and economic interests. Some believe that achieving our environmental goals can only come at the expense of a strong economy. Carbon capture and storage is proof that this choice isn’t zero sum. 

By embracing an all-of-the-above approach that puts every available technology to work, our commonwealth can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and continue to provide dependable jobs for hardworking Pennsylvanians. With the leadership of Pennsylvania’s skilled tradesmen, we can build a low-carbon economy that works for everyone. 

Jim Snell serves as the Business Manager of Steamfitters Local 420

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