Fundamentals of Shale Energy Development: Geology, Hydraulic Fracturing, and Environmental, Geopolitical and Socio-economic Impacts

Lesson 2: Introduction to Energy Sources

Lesson 2: Introduction to Energy Sources


Pennsylvania is a major energy-producing state and has a long history of energy extraction, most notably with the world's first commercial oil well drilled by Col. Edwin Drake near Titusville. It is one of the largest producers of electric energy and sends fully one-third of all the power it produces to surrounding states. In just ten years it has become the second-largest producer of natural gas in the U.S. due to the rise of production from the Marcellus shale, producing over 5 trillion cubic feet of gas annually, as of 2017, which supplies nearly 20% of the nation's natural gas. Regionally, Pennsylvania is one of the larger wind-producing states in the eastern U.S. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, wind energy produces over 1,300 megawatts annually from 27 wind farm stations, enough to power nearly 350,000 Pennsylvania homes.

You might think that all of this is because Pennsylvania has one of the largest economies in the U.S. and a rich energy resource base. All of this is true, but compare a state like Pennsylvania with California, another state with a large economy and rich energy resources. Unlike Pennsylvania, California has to import much of its electricity from other states. While California has significant oil and gas wealth, it is not a major producer of either, California is the third-largest on-shore oil producer, but its oil output pales in comparison to Texas, Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

Two states with very large economies and significant energy resources have evolved with very different energy portfolios. Why is this and how did it happen? What factors come into play when individual states or the U.S. set their energy use priorities? In this lesson, we’ll look at how different energy resources are used in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. and identify some of the ways in which these resources differ from one another.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify the primary energy resources used in the U.S. and in individual states.
  • Recognize that the costs and benefits of different energy sources are complex.
  • Understand why some energy resources cost more than others.
  • Evaluate arguments about the depletion of the supply of global oil.

Lesson Roadmap

Lesson 2 Roadmap
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  • Lesson 2 Homework