Energy policy of the United States

The energy policy of the United States is determined by federal, state and local public entities in the United States, which address issues of energy production, distribution, and consumption, such as building codes and gas mileage standards. Energy policy may include legislation, international treaties, subsidies and incentives to investment, guidelines for energy conservation, taxation and other public policy techniques. Several mandates have been proposed over the years, such as "gasoline will never exceed $1.00/gallon" (Nixon), and the United States will never again import as much oil as it did in 1977 (Carter), [ [ Crisis of Confidence Speech 1979] ] but no comprehensive long-term energy policy has been proposed, although there has been concern over this failure. [ [ CRS Report for Congress] ] Three Energy Policy Acts have been passed, in 1992, 2005, and 2007,cite web
url =
title = Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Enrolled as Agreed to or Passed by Both House and Senate)
accessdate = 2008-01-18
] which include many provisions for conservation, such as the Energy Star program, and energy development, with grants and tax incentives for both renewable and non-renewable energy. State-specific energy-efficiency incentive programs also play a significant role in the overall energy policy of the United States. [ [ Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency] ] The United States has resisted endorsing the Kyoto Protocol, preferring to let the market drive CO2 reductions to mitigate global warming, which will require CO2 emission taxation. Multiple 2008 U.S. Presidential candidates have published aggressive energy policy platforms, and some propose carbon emission taxation, which could help encourage more clean renewable, sustainable energy development.


In the Colonial era the energy policy of the United States was for free use of standing timber for heating and industry. In the 19th century, it was access to coal and its use for transport, heating and industry. Whales were rendered into lamp oil.cite web | url= | title=Energy in the United States: 1635-2000ndash Electricity | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 ] Later, coal gas was fractionated for use as lighting and town gas. Natural gas was first used in America for lighting in 1816. [] , it has grown in importance for use in homes, industry, and power plants, but natural gas production reached its U.S. peak in 1973, [] and the price has risen significantly since then.

Coal provided the bulk of the US energy needs well into the 20th century. Most urban homes had a coal bin and a coal fired furnace. Over the years these were replaced with oil furnaces, not because of it being cheaper but because it was easier and safer. [ [ Wood and Coal Stove Advisory] ] Coal remains far cheaper than oil. The biggest use of oil has come from the development of the automobile.

By 1950, oil consumption exceeded that of coal. [cite web | url= | title=Petroleum Timeline | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 ] cite web | url= | title=Energy in the United States: 1635-2000ndash Coal | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 ] The abundance of oil in California, Texas, Oklahoma, as well as in Canada and Mexico, coupled with its low cost, ease of transportation, high energy density, and use in internal combustion engines, lead to its increasing use. Following World War II, oil heating boilers took over from coal burners along the Eastern Seaboard; diesel locomotives took over from coal-fired steam engines under dieselisation; oil-fired electricity plants were built; petroleum-burning buses replaced electric streetcars in a GM driven conspiracy, for which they were found guilty, and citizens bought gasoline powered cars. Interstate Highways helped make cars the major means of personal transportation.cite web | url= | title=Energy in the United States: 1635-2000ndash Total Energy | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 ] As oil imports increased, US foreign policy was inexorably drawn into Middle East politics, supporting oil-producing Saudi Arabia and patrolling the sea lanes of the Persian Gulf.cite web | url= | title=Energy in the United States: 1635-2000ndash Petroleum | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 ]
Hydroelectricity was the basis of Nikola Tesla's introduction of the U.S. electricity grid, starting at Niagara Falls, NY in 1883. [] Electricity generated by major dams like the Jensen Dam, TVA Project, Grand Coulee Dam and Hoover Dam still produce some of the lowest-priced ($0.08/kWh), clean electricity in America. Rural electrification strung power lines to many more areas.cite web | url= | title=Energy in the United States: 1635-2000ndash Renewable | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 ]

Energy Independence and Resilience

The 1973 oil crisis made energy a popular topic of discussion in the US.cite web | url= | title=25th Anniversary of the 1973 Oil Embargo | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 | date=1998-03-09 ] The Federal Department of Energy was started with steps planned toward energy conservation and more modern energy producers. A National Maximum Speed Limit of 55 mph (88 km/h) was imposed to help reduce consumption, and Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards were enacted to downsize automobile categories. [cite web | url= | title=Performance Profiles of Major Energy Producers 1993 | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 | quote=See page 48. |format=PDF] Year-round Daylight Saving Time was imposed, the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve was created and the National Energy Act of 1978 was introduced. Alternate forms of energy and diversified oil supply resulted.cite web | url= | title=Petroleum Chronology of events 1970 - 2000 | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 |month=May | year=2002]

The United States receives approximately 84% of its energy from fossil fuels. [cite web | url= | title=Greenhouse Gases, Climate Change, and Energy | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 | date=2004-04-02] This energy is used for transport, industry, and domestic use. The remaining portion comes primarily from Hydro and Nuclear stations.cite web | url= | title=ENERGY INFOCARD - United States | publisher=United States Department of Energy | accessdate=2007-07-04 |month=October | year=2006] Americans constitute less than 5% of the world's population, but consume 26% of the world's energy. [ [ SEI: Energy Consumption] ] They account for about 25% of the world's petroleum consumption, while producing only 6% of the world's annual petroleum supply [ [ EIA - Petroleum Basic Data ] ] and having only 3% of the world’s known oil reserves. [ [ NRDC: Reducing U.S. Oil Dependence] ]

In the United States, oil is primarily consumed as fuel for cars, buses, trucks and airplanes (in the form of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel). Two-thirds of U.S. oil consumption is due to the transportation sector. [ [ After the Oil Runs Out] ,] The US - an important export country for food stocks - will convert 18% of its grain output to ethanol in 2008. Across the US, 25% of the whole corn crop went to ethanol in 2007.cite web|url=,8599,1684910,00.html?iid=sphere-inline-sidebar|title=After the Oil Crisis, a Food Crisis? |author= Kathleen Kingsbury|publisher=Time Magazine|accessdate=2008-04-28|date=2007-11-16|language=] The percentage of corn going to biofuel is expected to go up. [ [ Global warming rage lets global hunger grow - Telegraph] ] In 2006, U.S. Senators introduced the "BioFuels Security Act". [Baltimore, Chris. [ "New U.S. Congress looks to boost alternate fuels,"] "The Boston Globe", January 5, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007]

The proposal has been made for a hydrogen economy, where cars and factories are powered by fuel cells, although the hydrogen would still have to be produced at an energy cost, and hydrogen cars have been called one of the least efficient, most expensive ways to reduce greenhouse gases. [cite web | url= | title=Hydrogen Economy Fact Sheet | publisher=The White House | date=2003-06-25 | accessdate=2007-07-04 ] [ [ Hydrogen cars may be a long time coming] ] Other plans include making society carbon neutral and using renewable energy, including solar, wind and methane sources.

Automobiles, on the other hand, possibly could be powered 60% by grid electricity, 20% by biofuels and 20% direct solar. Re-design of cities, telecommuting, transit, higher housing density and walking could also reduce automobile fuel consumption and obesity. [ [ Higher gasoline price seen trimming down Americans] , Reuters, 11 September 07 accessed 2 October 2007] Carpooling, flexcars, Smart cars, and shorter commutes could all reduce fuel use. [ [ Carpool] ] [ [ 8th Annual Emerging Transportation Plenary] ]

It should be noted that between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon fueled irrigation. [ [ Eating Fossil Fuels |] ] The peaking of world hydrocarbon production (Peak oil) may test Malthus' critics. [ [ Peak Oil: the threat to our food security] ]

United States' relationships with oil-producing countries

The close relationship the United States has with Saudi Arabia, the world's single largest oil producer, may best be understood as a symbiotic relationship: America's energy needs in lieu of Saudi Arabia's needs for capital. The Saudi's wish to modernize and beautify their country into a western-style paradise, as well as create long-term investments throughout the world for use once their oil reserves become depleted. Successive American presidents have provided "red carpet" treatment to the Saudis. The American posture toward Saudi Arabia and many other OPEC counties, has been touted as a "special relationship" in the media. This relationship was shaken by the rise of Islamic militancy, and most acutely by the events of September 11, 2001. For the first time in close to a century, the leadership of the United States as well as many of the American people, began to weigh the benefits versus costs of those relationships, and reliance upon an energy source that was costly, easily interruptible, polluting, and which would eventually run out.

To date, the Saudis alone have invested approximately 70 billion dollars around the globe, 60% of which was invested in the United States. Saudi Arabian investments in the United States have traditionally been a welcome counterweight to the systemic U.S. trade deficit with the Kingdom. As American demand for Saudi oil continues at convert|1.5|Moilbbl|m3 per day, U.S. service and merchandise exports revenues to the Kingdom cover nowhere near the level of expenditures for petroleum. One enabler of U.S. consumption has been the historic Saudi Arabian willingness to finance this trade deficit by investing in the United States. This relationship, while symbiotic, and necessary to a U.S. economy addicted to consumption, is viewed by many as "golden hand-cuffs" voluntarily worn by the United States.

The "current account" is the broadest measure of a nation’s balance of income payments with the rest of the world, and it is the difference between a nation’s receipts ("exports" and returns on domestic holdings of foreign investment) and its payments ("imports" and returns on foreign holdings of domestic investment). Just like a household that spends more than it earns, a nation must finance its current account deficit through borrowing. The balance of payments is one reflection of a nation's financial economic stability. The current U.S. account balance is a 'negative value.' As of 2004, the account balance in the U.S. was minus (-) 665.5 billion dollars. This borrowing on the part of the United States has, predictably, led to an enormous foreign debt. In contrast, Saudi affluence is soaring, with a record 70 billion dollar budget surplus for 2006. ["Financial Times"; on 3/26/07: "Saudi Peace Plan Revived", p. 24.]

The U.S. House Financial Services Committee is considering legislation that would require all U.S.-listed oil, natural-gas and mining companies to publicly disclose payments to governments where they are exploring and producing. []

Energy Resilience

Andy Grove argues that energy independence is a and objective, particularly in a network of integrated global exchange. He suggests instead that the objective should be energy resilience: resilience goes hand in hand with adaptability, and it also is reflected in important market ideas like substitutability. In fact, resilience is one of the best features of market processes; the information transmission function of prices means that individual buyers and sellers can adapt to changes in supply and demand conditions in a decentralized way. His suggestion for how to increase the resilience of the U.S. energy economy is to shift use from petroleum to electricity (electrification), that is sticky and can be produced using multiple sources of energy, including renewables. [ [ Andy Grove: Energy resilience, not energy independence - Knowledge Problem ] ] .

Energy Consumption

Buildings and their construction consume more energy than transportation or industrial applications, and because buildings are responsible for the largest portion of greenhouse emissions, they have the largest impact on man-made climate change. The AIA has proposed making buildings carbon neutral by 2030, meaning that the construction and operation of buildings will not require fossil fuel energy or emit greenhouse gases, and having the U.S. reduce CO2 emissions to 40 to 60% below 1990 levels by 2050. [ [ Architects and Climate Change] ]

When President Carter created the U.S. Department of Energy in 1977, one of their first successful projects was the Weatherization Assistance Program. [ [ Weatherization Assistance Program] ] During the last 30 years, this program has provided services to more than 5.5 million low-income families. On average, low-cost weatherization reduces heating bills by 31% and overall energy bills by $358 per year at current prices. 2008 Presidential candidates are calling for increased energy efficiency and weatherization spending, which has a high return on investment. [ [ Communities of the Future] ]

The “"Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007"” has a significant impact on U.S. Energy Policy. It includes funding to help improve building codes, and will make it illegal to sell incandescent light bulbs, as they are less efficient than fluorescents and LEDs.

Technologies such as passive solar building design and zero energy buildings (ZEB) have demonstrated significant new-construction energy bill reductions. The “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007” includes funding to increase the popularity of ZEBs, photovoltaics, and even a new solar air conditioning program. Many energy-saving measures can be added to existing buildings as retrofits, but others are only cost-effective in new construction, which is why building code improvements are being encouraged. The solution requires both improved incentives for energy conservation, and new energy sources.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 increases average gas mileage to 35 mpg by 2020. The current administration and 2007 legislation are encouraging the near-term use of plug-in electric cars, and hydrogen cars by 2020. Toyota has suggested that their third-generation 2009 Prius [ [ 2009 Toyota Prius: Spy Report] ] may cost much less than the current model. [ [ Ultra-Green: Radical 100-MPG Toyota Prius in the Works for 2009] ] Larger advanced-technology batteries have been suggested to make it plug-in rechargeable. Photovoltaics are an option being discussed to extend its daytime electric driving range. Improving solar cell efficiency factors will continue to make this a progressively more-cost-effective option.


About 86% of all types of energy used in the United States is derived from fossil fuels. In 2005, the largest source of the country's energy came from petroleum (40% in 2005), followed by coal (23%) and natural gas (23%). The remaining 14% was supplied by nuclear power, hydroelectric dams, and miscellaneous renewable sources. [US Dept. of Energy, " [ Annual Energy Report] " (July 2006), Energy Flow diagram]


The US consumes convert|20.8|Moilbbl|m3 of petroleum a day,cite web | url= | title=Basic Petroleum Statistics | publisher=Energy Information Administration | month=June | year=2006 | accessdate=2007-07-04] of which convert|9|Moilbbl|m3 is motor gasoline. Transportation has the highest consumption rates, accounting for approximately 68.9% of the oil used in the United States in 2006,cite web
title=Domestic Demand for Refined Petroleum Products by Sector
publisher=U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics
] and 55% of oil use worldwide as documented in the Hirsch report. Automobiles are the single largest consumer of oil [ [ The Road to Recovery Begins in Detroit] accessed 2 October 2007] , consuming 40%, and are also the source of 20% of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. [ [ Advanced Technology Vehicles: The Road Ahead] accessed 2 October 2007]

The USA has about convert|22|Goilbbl|m3 reserves while consuming about convert|7.6|Goilbbl|m3 per year. This has created pressure for previously reserved locations in places such as Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to be opened up for drilling. During the 2008 presidential election, one of the leading topics were the opening of new offshore oilfields. New oilfields would not solve the oil crisis however, but only delay it. [ Fate of ANWR Hangs in the Balance] ] The average U.S. car gets 20.4 mpg., while the average European car gets 40 mpg.Fact|date=May 2008 Improving fuel economy is seen as a superior route to energy security. [ [ Senator Feinstein Opposes Attempt to Open ANWR to Drilling] ] [ [ U.S. ‘stuck in reverse’ on fuel economy] ] European gasoline prices were artificially raised to $4 per gallon through taxation long before they reached $4/gallon in the U.S., leading to better fuel economy. [ [ Gasoline Tops $5 A Gallon In Gorda ] ] [ [ Fuel Prices Increase Nationwide as California Braces for $4/Gallon Gas in ‘08] ]

Problems associated with oil supply include volatile oil prices, increasing world and domestic petroleum product demand, dependence on unstable imported foreign oil, falling domestic production (peak oil), and declining infrastructure, like the Alaska pipeline and oil refineries.

American dependence on imports grew from 10% in 1970 to 65% by the end of 2004. At the current rate of unchecked import growth, the US will be 70% to 75% reliant on foreign oil by the middle of the next decade. [ [] ]


America is self sufficient in coal.cite web | url= | title=Energy Information Administration Statistics and Projections for U.S. Coal Supply and Demand: U.S. Coal, Domestic and International Issues | first=Richard F. | last=Bonskowski | publisher=US Department of Energy | date=2001-03-27 | accessdate=2007-07-07] Indeed, it has several hundred years supply of it.cite web | url= | title=Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage in Deep Geologic Formations | first=Sally M. | last=Benson | publisher=Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the National Commission on Energy Policy | accessdate=2007-07-07|format=PDF] cite web | title=Coalndash A Fossil Fuel | url= | publisher=US Department of Energy | date=February 2007 | accessdate=2007-07-22] The United states trend in coal use has been rising for decades. From 1950 through 2006, both coal production and coal consumption in the United States have more than doubled. [ Table 7.1 Coal Overview, Selected Years, 1949-2006 (Page 203) " [ Annual Energy Review 2006] " United States Energy Information Administration, United States Department of Energy. (Caution: PDF is 10 megabytes) See: [ Table of Contents] ] The population of the US has almost doubled in this time period as well, while the per capita energy use has been declining since 1978. [ [ U.S. population hits 300 million mark] ] [ [ U.S. Per Capita Use of Energy] ]

Most electricity (52% in 2000) in the country is generated from coal-fired power plants: in 2006, more than 90% of coal consumed was used to generate electricity. In 1950, about 19% percent of the coal consumed was for electricity generation. [ Table 7.3 Coal Consumption by Sector, Selected Years, 1949-2006 (Page 207) and Figure 7.3 Coal Consumption by Sector (Page 206) " [ Annual Energy Review 2006] " United States Energy Information Administration, United States Department of Energy. (Caution: PDF is 10 megabytes) See: [ Table of Contents] ]

In terms of the production of energy from domestic sources, from 1885 through 1951, coal was the leading source of energy in the United States. Crude oil and natural gas then vied for that role until 1982. Coal regained the position of the top domestic resource that year and again in 1984, and has retained it since. [ [ Energy in the United States: 1635-2000] United States Energy Information Administration, United States Department of Energy. ] The US burns 1 billion tons of coal every year.

Concern for global warming has led to a call for a moratorium on all coal consumption, unless carbon capture is utilized. Coal is the largest potential source of CO2 emissions. [ [ Human-Related Sources and Sinks of Carbon Dioxide] ] [ [ New Policy Could Put CO2 Underground] ] [ [ The great coal hole] ]

Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) is the cleanest currently-operational coal-fired electricity generation technology. FutureGen is an experimental U.S. research project to investigate the possibility of sequestering IGCC CO2 emissions underground.

Nuclear Power

In 2004 in the United States, there were 104 (69 pressurized water reactors and 35 boiling water reactors) commercial nuclear generating units licensed to operate, producing a total of 97,400 megawatts (electric), which is approximately 20% of the nation's total electric energy consumption. Nuclear power has been used in this country for over 50 years: the first practical power reactor EBR-1 was a test reactor built to power a handful of incandescent bulbs in 1951 at Idaho National Laboratory near Atomic City, Idaho. By the 1960s and 1970s, the US built dozens of commercial reactors, mainly in the east, south and midwest. The United States is the world's largest supplier of commercial nuclear power, however from the completion of Watts Bar 1 in 1996 to the resumption of construction of Watts Bar 2 in 2007, no construction of new nuclear plants was undertaken in the country.

Although expensive to build, nuclear power plants can yield large quantities of electricity with relatively low operating costs, and with the emission of low levels of greenhouse gases. With political intervention, a larger percentage of the nation's electricity production could be generated by nuclear power, as in France, where nuclear power provides about 78% of the electricity. [ [ France's nuclear push transforms energy equation ] ]

Nuclear power plants produce large quantities of steam which is exhausted through their tall cooling towers. Collocation of plants that can take advantage of this thermal energy has been suggested by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as a way to exploit process synergy for added energy efficiency. One example would be to use the power plant steam to produce hydrogen from water. [ [ Microsoft Word - ORNL TM 2006-114.doc ] ] The hydrogen would cost less, and the nuclear power plant would exhaust less heat into the atmosphere and water vapor (which is a greenhouse gas).

Renewable energy

Renewable energy accounted for more than 10 percent of the domestically-produced energy used in the United States in the first half of 2008. [ [ Renewable Energy Tops 10% of U.S. Energy Production] ] The United States' hydroelectric plants produce 300,000 MW, making the largest contribution to the country's renewable energy. [, associated with] However, wind power in the United States is a growing industry.

At the end of March 2008, the US wind power capacity was 18,302 MW, which is enough to serve 4.5 million average households. American wind farms will generate an estimated 48 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of wind energy in 2008, just over 1% of U.S. electricity supply. [ [ Installed Wind Capacity Surged 45% in 2007] ] Texas is firmly established as the leader in wind power development in the U.S., followed by California. [ [ American Wind Energy Association] ] The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Texas is the world's largest wind farm at 735.5 MW capacity. [ [ Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center now largest wind farm in the world] ] Available wind resources exceed 1 Million GWh/year in each of five states. [ [ Annual U.S. Wind Power Rankings] ]

Several solar thermal power stations, including the new 64 MW Nevada Solar One, have also been built.
Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) is the name given to nine solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, which were commissioned between 1984 and 1991. [ SEGS I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII & IX] ] The SEGS installation uses parabolic trough solar thermal technology along with natural gas to generate electricity. The plants have a total generating capacity of 354 MW, making the system the largest solar plant of any kind in the world.This years annual Solar Home Competition on the National Mall, for groups of students to build an energy efficient home which also generates enough extra electricity to power an electric car was won by a team from Germany. [ [ German Team Wins Solar Home Competition] ] Solar is by far the greatest potential energy source in the U.S. [ [ Capturing solar’s unlimited potential] ]

With 2,957 MW of installed geothermal capacity, the United States remains the world leader with 30% of the online capacity total. As of August 2008, 103 new projects are underway in 13 U.S. states. When developed, these projects could potentially supply up to 3,979 MW of power, meeting the needs of about 4 million homes. At this rate of development, geothermal production in the United States could exceed 15,000 MW by 2025. [ Update: The State of U.S. Geothermal Production and Development] ]


In recent years there has been an increased interest in biofuels - bioethanol and biodiesel - derived from common agricultural staples or waste. Increased domestic production of these fuels could reduce US expenditure on foreign oil and improve energy security if methods of producing and transporting the fuels do not involve heavy inputs of fossil fuels, as current agriculture does.

Most cars on the road today in the U.S. can run on blends of up to 10% ethanol, and motor vehicle manufacturers already produce vehicles designed to run on much higher ethanol blends. Portland, Oregon, recently became the first city in the United States to require all gasoline sold within city limits to contain at least 10% ethanol. [ [ Introduction: The Clean Tech Opportunity] p. 3.] Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and GM are among the automobile companies that sell “flexible-fuel” cars, trucks, and minivans that can use gasoline and ethanol blends ranging from pure gasoline up to 85% ethanol (E85). By mid-2006, there were approximately six million E85-compatible vehicles on U.S. roads.Worldwatch Institute and Center for American Progress (2006). [ "American energy: The renewable path to energy security"] ]

The Renewable Fuels Association counts 113 U.S. ethanol distilleries inoperation and another 78 under construction, with capacity to produce 11.8billion gallons within the next few years. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts in its Annual Energy Outlook 2007 that ethanol consumption will reach 11.2 billion gallons by 2012, outstripping the 7.5 billion gallons required in the Renewable Fuel Standard that was enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. [ [ Industrial Biotechnology Is Revolutionizing the Production of Ethanol Transportation Fuel] ]

Expanding ethanol fuel (and biodiesel) industries provide jobs in plant construction, operations, and maintenance, mostly in rural communities. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol industry created almost 154,000 U.S. jobs in 2005 alone, boosting household income by $5.7 billion. It also contributed about $3.5 billion in tax revenues at the local, state, and federal levels.

In recent years, there has been criticism about the production of ethanol fuel from food crops. [cite web |url= | title= The Economist – The End Of Cheap Food] [cite web
title= Crime Against Humanity
] [cite web
title= Financial Times: OECD Warns Against Biofuels Subsidies
] [cite web
title= Food Prices: Cheap No More
] [cite web
title= Bush Signs Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007
] [cite web
title= Global Science Forum Conference on Scientific Challenges for Energy Research: Energy At The Crossroads|format=PDF
] However, second generation biofuels are now being produced from a much broader range of feedstocks including the cellulose in dedicated energy crops (perennial grasses such as switchgrass and Miscanthus giganteus), forestry materials, the co-products from food production, and domestic vegetable waste. [ [ Hydrogen injection could boost biofuel production] ] Produced responsibly they are sustainable energy sources that need not divert any land from growing food, nor damage the environment. [Oxburgh, Ron. Fuelling hope for the future, "Courier Mail", 15 August 2007.] [ [ Sustainable biofuels: prospects and challenges] p. 2.]

Energy efficiency

There are many different types of energy efficiency innovations and these include: efficient water heaters; improved refrigerators and freezers; advanced building control technologies and advances in heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC); smart windows that adapt to maintain a comfortable interior environment; a steady stream of new building codes to reduce needless energy use, and compact fluorescent lights. Improvements in buildings alone, where over sixty-percent of all energy is used, save tens of billions of dollars per year. [ Opportunities for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions] ]

Several states, including California, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, have consistently deployed energy efficiency innovations. Their state planners officials, citizens, and industry leaders, have found these to be very cost-effective, often providing greater service at lower personal and social cost than simply adding more fossil-fuel based supply technologies. This is the case for several reasons. Energy efficient technologies often represent upgrades in service through superior performance (e.g. higher quality lighting, heating and cooling with greater controls, or improved reliability of service through greater ability of utilities to respond to time of peak demand). So these innovations can provide a better, less expensive, service.

A wide range of energy efficient technologies have ancillary benefits of improved quality of life, such as advanced windows that not only save on heating and cooling expenses, but also make the work-place or home more comfortable. Another example is more efficient vehicles, which not only save immediately on fuel purchases, but also emit less pollutants, improving health and saving on medical costs to the individual and to society.

Carbon emissions

Although possibly exceeded by China, [ [ China now no. 1 in CO2 emissions; USA in second position] Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency retrieved June 20 2007] the United States has historically been the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases. [Raupach, M.R. "et al." (2007) [ "Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions."] "Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci." 104(24): 10288-93."] Some states, however, are much more prolific polluters than others. The state of Texas produces approximately 1.5 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide yearly, more than every nation in the world except six: the United States, China, Russia, Japan, India, and Germany. [cite news|title=Blame Coal: Texas Leads in Overall Emissions|author=Borenstein, Seth|publisher=USA Today|date=04-06-2007|url=|accessdate=2007-06-06]

Despite signing the Kyoto Protocol, the United States has neither ratified nor withdrawn from it. In the absence of ratification it remains non-binding on the US. President Bush has indicated that he does not intend to submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification, not because he does not support the Kyoto principles, but because of the exemption granted to China (the world's second largest emitter of carbon dioxide [ cite web | title=China Country Analysis Brief | url= | accessmonthday=November 15 | accessyear=2005 |publisher=US Energy Information Administration] ). Bush also opposes the treaty because of the strain he believes the treaty would put on the economy; he emphasizes the uncertainties which are present in the climate change issue. [cite news| url= | work=AlterNet| title= George W. Bush: The Un-science Guy | first= David last=Corn |date= 2001-06-19| accessdate=2006-11-05] Furthermore, the U.S. is concerned with broader exemptions of the treaty. For example, the U.S. does not support the split between Annex I countries and others.

The Bush Administration has taken no specific actions towards mitigation of climate change. At state and local levels, however, there are currently a number of initiatives. As of January 18, 2007, eight Northeastern US states are involved in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), [cite web| url= |title=Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative| accessdate=2006-11-07] a state level emissions capping and trading program.

On August 31, 2006, the California Legislature reached an agreement with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce the state's greenhouse-gas emissions, which rank at 12th-largest carbon emitter in the world [cite web | title=Blair signs climate pact with Schwarzenegger | url=,,1834663,00.html | publisher=The Guardian | date=2006-08-01 | accessdate=2007-07-07 ] , by 25 percent by the year 2020. This resulted in the Global Warming Solutions Act which effectively puts California in line with the Kyoto limitations, but at a date later than the 2008–2012 Kyoto commitment period.

As of March 11, 2007, 418 US cities in 50 states, representing more than 60 million Americans support Kyoto after Mayor Greg Nickels of Seattle started a nationwide effort to get cities to agree to the protocol. [cite web| url= |title=US Climate Protection Agreement Home Page |accessdate=2006-11-07]

In the non-binding 'Washington Declaration' agreed on February 16, 2007, the United States, together with Presidents or Prime Ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa agreed in principle on the outline of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. They envisage a global cap-and-trade system that would apply to both industrialized nations and developing countries, and hoped that this would be in place by 2009. [ [ BBC: Politicians sign new climate pact, February 16, 2007] ] [ [,,2014683,00.html Guardian Unlimited: Global leaders reach climate change agreement] ]

Chemistry Professor Nathan Lewis at Caltech estimates that to keep atmospheric carbon levels below 750 ppm, a level at which serious climate change would occur, by the year 2050, the United States would need to generate twice as much energy from renewable sources as is generated by all power sources combined today. [] However, current research indicates that even carbon dioxide concentrations in excess of 450 ppm would result in irreversible global climate change. [ [ U.S. Stabilization Wedges: Scientific American ] ]

The book, "Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free, A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy", [Makhijani, Arjun "Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free, A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy" 2007 ISBN 978-1571431738] by Arjun Makhijani, argues that in order to meet goals of limiting global warming to 2 °C, the world will need to reduce CO2 emissions by 85% and the U.S. will need to reduce emissions by 95%, which can be extended to within a few percent plus or minus of carbon free with little additional change. [Makhijani pg. 3] The book calls for phasing out use of oil, natural gas, and coal which does not use carbon sequestration by the year 2050. [Makhijani Fig. 5-5, 5-8] Effective delivered energy is projected to increase from about 75 Quadrillion Btu in 2005 to about 125 Quadrillion in 2050, [ Makhijani Fig. 5-7] but due to efficiency increases, the actual energy input is projected to increase from about 99 Quadrillion Btu in 2005 to about 103 Quadrillion in 2010 and then to decrease to about 77 Quadrillion in 2050. [ Makhijani Fig. 5-8] Petroleum use is projected to increase until 2010 and then linearly decrease to zero by 2050. The roadmap calls for nuclear power to decrease to zero at the same time, with the reduction also beginning in 2010. [Makhijani Fig. 5-5]

In his book "Hell and High Water", author Joseph Romm calls for the rapid deployment of existing technologies to decrease carbon emissions. In a follow-up article in "" in June 2008, he argues that "If we are to have confidence in our ability to stabilize carbon dioxide levels below 450 p.p.m. emissions must average less than [5 billion metric tons of carbon] per year over the century. This means accelerating the deployment of the 11 wedges so they begin to take effect in 2015 and are completely operational in much less time than originally modelled by Socolow and Pacala." [ [ Romm, Joseph. "Cleaning up on carbon",] June 19, 2008]

Texas Billionaire T. Boone Pickens has thrown his hat into the Energy Policy ring with a television advertisement campaign questioning the current state of energy in the US. He is an advocate of renewable energy sources and is currently developing a 4000 MW wind farm in the state of Texas.


Long distance electric power transmission results in energy loss, through electrical resistance, heat generation, electromagnetic induction and less-than-perfect electrical insulation. [cite web
url =
title = Transmission and distribution technologies
accessdate = 2008-01-18
] In 1995, these losses were estimated at 7.2%. [ cite web
title = Technology Options for the Near and Long Term
publisher = U.S. Climate Change Technology Program
year = 2005
month = August
accessdate = 2008-10-05
url =
format = PDF
] . Energy generation and distribution can be more efficient the closer it is to the point of use, if conducted in a high-efficiency generator, such as a CHP. In the generation and delivery of electrical power, system losses along the delivery chain are pronounced. Of five units of energy going into most large power plants, only about one unit of energy is delivered to the consumer in a usable form. [ [ Electric System Losses to Inefficiency] ] A similar situation exists in gas transport, where compressor stations along pipelines use energy to keep the gas moving, or where gas liquefaction/cooling/regasification in the liquiefied natural gas supply chain uses a substantial amount of energy, even though the scale of the loss is not as pronounced as it is in electricity.

Distributed generation is a means of reducing total and transmission losses.


*production 3.979 trillion kWh produced in 2004 []

Electricity - production by source:
*fossil fuel: 71.4%
*hydro: 5.6%
*nuclear: 20.7%
*other: 2.3% (2001)

*production: 7.61 million barrel/day (2005 est.)
*consumption: 20.03 million barrel/day (2003 est.)

Heat Engines are only 20% efficient at converting raw energy (oil) into work. [ [ Improving IC Engine Efficiency] ] [ [ Carnot Cycle] ] Electric transmission (production to consumer) loses over 23% of the energy due to generation, transmission, and distribution [cite web | url= | title=Comparability of Supply- and Consumption-Derived Estimates of Manufacturing Energy Consumption | first=John L. | last=Preston | publication=Energy Information Administration/Monthly Energy Review | publisher=US Department of Energy | month=October | year=1994 |quote=Table 7: Total energy: 29,568.0 trillion Btu, Loss: 7,014.1 trillion Btu ]

Carbon emissions

Public opinion

The US results from the 1st Annual World Environment Review, published on June 5, 2007 revealed that: [ [ First Annual World Environment Review Poll Reveals Countries Want Governments to Take Strong Action on Climate Change] , "Global Market Insite", published 2007-06-05, accessed 2007-05-09]
*74% are concerned about climate change.
*80% think their Government should do more to tackle global warming.
*84% think that the US is too dependent on fossil fuels.
*72% think that the US is too reliant on foreign oil.
*79% think that the US Government should do more to increase the number of hybrid cars that are sold.

An April CBS News/New York Times poll collected a wide range of data that demonstrates the public’s desire for serious action on global warming. By an almost two-to-one margin (63 percent to 32 percent), the public endorses the idea that protecting the environment is so important that “requirements and standards cannot be too high” and that “continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost.”

The public is also quite clear on its priorities when it comes to promoting energy conservation versus increasing the supply of oil, coal, and natural gas. When asked which of these should be the higher priority, the public chooses energy conservation by a very wide 68 percent-to-21 percent margin. [ [ Public Opinion Snapshot: Public Wants Action on Energy and the Environment] ]

The public also predominantly believes that the need to cut down on energy consumption and protect the environment means increased energy efficiency should be mandated for certain products. Ninety-two percent of Americans now support such requirements. [ [ Public Opinion Snapshot: Public Wants Action on Energy and the Environment] , "The Center for American Progress", published 2007-06-15,]

General Legislative Policy, Legislation and Plans

President Bush´s Energy Policy has been named as ‘drill and veto’ by Speaker Nancy Pelosi [] .


* In December 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, which responded to his "Twenty in Ten" challenge in the State of the Union Address to improve vehicle fuel economy and increase alternative fuels. Twenty in Ten has the goal of reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent in ten years (2007-2017). [ [ Twenty In Ten: Strengthening America's Energy Security ] ]

Energy Politics in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Campaign

The energy and climate change topics are part of the political platforms of most Presidential candidates. Several organizations are publishing comparison summaries of the candidates' positions. [ [ See at a glance where the presidential contenders stand on climate and energy issues | Grist ] ] Though both Barack Obama and John McCain push toward energy independence and reduction of emissions through renewable energy sources and cap and trade programs, Obama's calls for a larger reduction. Contentiously, McCain reversed his opposition to offshore drilling citing increased oil costs, while Obama used to oppose such drilling, but now allows for its possibility as part of a greater bipartisan energy compromise. McCain has emphasized nuclear power as a means of achieving energy goals calling for subsidies to the nuclear industry. Obama states that he would consider it though is more cautious citing safety, storage, and the need for subsidies.

For immediate economic relief, Obama has called for an energy rebate paid for by a tax on oil company profits, and a release of some of strategic oil reserve. McCain opposes these measures.

International cooperation

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has said the United States and China have a strong mutual interest in avoiding energy supply disruptions. []

The Immediate Future

As things stand, the nation's energy will come from a mix of sources. in the future the mix will increase the amount of renewable energy anddecrease the reliance on fossil fuels. Conservation and technological improvements will reduce the total energy demand. Simple things like improvedgas milage, to the range of 80 mpg, will reduce fuel use by a factor of 4. On the horizon is fusion power which is technically feasible although still25 years away in the future until it provides amperes in the outlet.

ee also

*Carter Doctrine
*Economics of new nuclear power plants
*Energy and American Society
*Energy law
*Energy use in the United States
*Hirsch report
*List of United States Energy Acts
*Oil price increases since 2003
*Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
*United States Department of Energy
*United States Secretary of Energy
*World energy resources and consumption


External links

* [ Energy Profile Analysis of The United States]
* [ U.S. Department of energy]
** [ U.S. Department of energy timeline]
* [ Energy Information Administration]
** [ Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government]
** [ Residential Electricity Prices]
* [!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?navid=ENERGY&navtype=MS USDA energy]
* [ United States Energy Association] (USEA)
* [ U.S. energy stats]
* [ Public Opinion Snapshot: The Public Wants Action on Energy and the Environment]
* [ ISEA] — "Database of U.S. International Energy Agreements"
* [ Retail sales of electricity and associated revenue by end-use sectors through June 2007] (Energy Information Administration)
* [ International Energy Agency 2007 Review of US Energy Policies]

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