Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Teresa Sabol Spezio

Reader 2

Susan Phillips

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© 2018 Austin J Zimmerman


State energy plans are created at the request of a sitting governor or State Legislature in order to provide guidance set goals for the state’s energy sector. These plans will be critical indicators of energy trends such as the future market share of coal, natural gas, and renewables. If the future of energy in the United States is to be remotely sustainable, low-carbon policies must headline state plans. The strength of a state’s energy plan in terms of sustainability is directly related to that state’s willingness to prioritize and commit to incorporating energy sources that produce negligible carbon emissions. Questions about the role of efficiency can be answered by the political need for short-run payoffs that do not necessarily align with the long-term goals of sustainability (Kern & Smith, 2008). The nature of the American political system is that representatives want to be able to bring immediate results to their constituents, results that are usually shown in the short-run by efficiency programs. While the state energy plans in question (California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Iowa, South Carolina, and Virginia) engage with sustainability at varying levels of strength, they deal mostly in weak sustainability by failing to commit to renewables. Historical reliance on energy efficiency and its accompanying theories of growth has created a climate in which state energy plans do not generally realize their enormous potential to lead the national transition away from fossil fuels.