Insight Collection: Philadelphia’s Energy Transitions

A collection of blogs, written by undergraduate students, that explore the history of Philadelphia’s energy transitions.

As the first fossil fuel state, Pennsylvania led the United States toward an energy-intensive economy, a technological pathway with planetary consequences. Surprisingly, given this significance, the fossil fuel history of the Commonwealth’s leading city has never been told comprehensively, much less related to Philadelphians in an accessible way.

As part of a larger project, “Petrosylvania,” undertaken by Professor Jared Farmer, undergraduate students were tasked with writing essays about the history of energy transitions in Philadelphia. Read the reflections below: 

Broken Trust: Understanding the Private Distribution of Electricity in Philadelphia

Manoj Simha

Why is the distribution of electricity in Philadelphia not municipally owned? Examining PECO’s origins reveals a municipal history of inaction and corruption that is a warning to the present.

An Energy Transition by War-Scale Action: Here’s What That Looked Like in WWII Philadelphia

Marilyn Pereboom

War-emergency pipelines constructed with federal funding in the 1940s transformed the energy landscape of the Mid-Atlantic. This historical case study provides insight into today’s global energy transition.

Can Philly Force the Rotten Roots of PGW to Sprout a Green Transition?

Madison Parkerson and Jared Farmer

As a public utility, PGW is a political entity. Next year’s mayoral election in Philadelphia will be a pivotal moment for the City’s path to net zero, which depends on PGW’s low-carbon transition.