Lesson 2: Energy Choices for PA and the US


Pennsylvania is a major energy state. 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 a few years it has become the second-largest producer of natural gas in the U.S. Regionally, Pennsylvania is one of the larger wind-producing states in the eastern U.S.

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 made two very different sets of decisions. Why? 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.

Please watch the following video.

Energy Choices: The SWITCH energy prime (2:51)

Source: Arcos Films on Vimeo


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 depletion of the supply of global oil.

Lesson Roadmap

Lesson Roadmap
To Read List reading assignments Location
To Do
  • Activity 1
  • Activity 2
  • Activity 3
  • Submission Location 1
  • Submission Location 2
  • Submission Location 3


If you have questions, or need further references you may contact Penn State hydrogeologist Dave Yoxtheimer, at the Earth & Environmental Systems Institute. His email address is day122@psu.edu.