Diving into local governments, one group you quickly come across is DVRPC, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. My understanding is that there’s a similar commission in each region of Pennsylvania. DVRPC seems to be responsible for all manners of guidance, resources and data collection for infrastructure in the Philadelphia region.
One example that I came across yesterday was the energy usage data by municipality. Here is Nether Providence’s energy usage, due to be updated shortly (this is based on 2015 data). As you might expect of a suburban residential community – the most residential community in Pennsylvania we are told at school board meetings – the largest source is residential, followed by transportation. Only 17% is commercial or industry. Of the 49% of energy use that is residential, 73% is natural gas or fuel oil and of the 33% that is transportation, 98% is gasoline or diesel. Taken together, that’s already 68% of our energy use that is fossil fuel based. Commercial and industry adds another 9% natural gas and fuel oil, for a total of 77% of our energy usage based on fossil fuels. Even if 100% of our electricity is generated renewably (which we aren’t anywhere close to – PA currently has a target of 18% renewable energy, the lowest in the region), that leaves 77% of our energy use dependent on fossil fuels. On top of these numbers is additional greenhouse gas emissions from waste and wastewater disposal as well.
Those numbers are going to be hard to shift in the time frame it needs to change. We have no electrical vehicle infrastructure in the township (though Swarthmore and Media do), few homes are wired for level 2 electric chargers and electric vehicles largely remain out of the price range of many residents. According to Google, Americans keep their cars for 10.8 years, so even if we all started buying electric cars today (I found an estimate that 2% of passenger cars sold in 2020 were electric, so that’s not even close), we would not be all-electric before 2030. Natural gas remains so cheap that electrifying its uses are going to be expensive for residents. Furnaces (15-20 years), water heaters (8-10 years) and stoves (13-15 years) all use natural gas, so even if we banned the use of new natural gas appliances today, decarbonizing will stretch well past a 2030 target. The incentives that are already in place are insufficient to drive mass adoption of electric systems while natural gas remains so cheap.
Given that the Pennsylvania legislature is run by people happy to obliterate our planet, the work to decarbonize the economy is going to fall heavily on local, county, regional governments and whatever federal resources are available to them. Its not going to be an easy task in Nether Providence.