Pennsylvania has been one of the more active states in promoting green technology. Those days might be over.

Republican governor Tom Corbett, inaugurated in January, is cutting funding and programs designed for promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy in favor of promoting policies that will expand drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes:

Quietly but systematically, the administration has all but shut down the state Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Energy and Technology Deployment -- the state's primary energy office -- and removed directors and reassigned staff in the Office of Energy Management in the Department of General Services and the Governor's Green Government Council.

It has also forbidden state executive agencies from signing contracts that support clean energy supply.

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future says the shift jeopardizes 106,000 jobs in the green energy field that have been created by the state's renewable policies. Pennsylvania's policies -- in the past -- were promoted by both Democratic governors like Ed Rendell and Republicans like Tom Ridge. 
A new mandate not to buy renewable energy actually appears to reverse an earlier policy under which the state was getting 50 percent of its power from renewable sources. Concerns about the Energy Saving Act to help government offices are growing. The Post-Gazette further writes:

State Rep. William Adolph, a Delaware County Republican who authored the Energy Savings Act, is in discussions with the governor's office about how the program will be administered, said Mike Stoll, a spokesman for Mr. Adolph.

"We're still working with the administration to understand its position on the program," Mr. Stoll said. "It's saying this is part of a consolidation of programs but that doesn't change the requirements of the act."

Corbett, meanwhile, has actively promoted shale gas. Natural gas, of course, is cheap at the moment, but it's far from perfect. The environmental problems from hydraulic fracking remain unclear, and the process water that gets consumed in drilling has to be managed. What's more, by 2030, the U.S. will become a net importer of gas again because of the increased demand.

It will be interesting to see what happens in other states over the next few months. Corbett can argue that supporting shale gas helps the state's economy. But other states like Arizona, Nevada and New Jersey can't make that claim. If these states start cutting renewable plans because of budget difficulties, it could become like the early '80s again, where a promising renewable industry suddenly stops in its tracks.


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