policy in the United States has focused on three major goals: assuring a secure
supply of energy, keeping energy costs low, and protecting the
environment. In pursuit of those goals, government programs have been
developed to improve the efficiency with which energy is utilized, to
promote the domestic production of conventional energy sources, and to develop
new energy sources, particularly renewable sources.
Implementing these programs has been controversial because of varying
importance given to different aspects of energy policy. For some,
dependence on imports of foreign oil, particularly from the Persian Gulf,
is the primary concern; for others, the indiscriminate use of fossil fuels, whatever
their origin, is most important. The contribution of burning fossil fuels to
global climate change is particularly controversial. Another dichotomy is
between those who see government intervention as a positive force and
those who view it as a necessary evil at best.
Energy policy is an important issue in the presidential campaign, and there are
sharp differences between the positions of President Obama and Republican
candidate Mitt Romney, and between most Republicans and Democrats in
Congress. The Obama Administration has vigorously pushed energy efficiency
and renewable energy initiatives, at the same time claiming to encourage development
of oil and natural gas resources. President Obama has declared global climate change
a major issue. The Romney campaign argues that the Obama Administration has
blocked oil and gas development, and declares that so-called green
technologies are too expensive to compete in the market. Alternative
energy funding, according to Romney, should be concentrated on basic
research. On global climate change, Romney acknowledges that human activity contributes
to global warming, but claims there is no consensus on its extent or severity.
He opposes unilateral measures that do not include actions by developing
The 112th Congress has not taken up comprehensive energy legislation, but
numerous bills have been taken up on specific energy issues. Several
notable bills that have passed the House but have not been taken up by the
Senate are H.R. 4480, aimed at increasing leasing of federal land for oil and
gas production; H.R. 2401 and H.R. 3409, which would limit EPA’s issuance of
new emissions restrictions for coal-fired power plants; and H.R. 6213,
which would prohibit the Department of Energy from granting loan
guarantees for innovative and renewable energy projects.
Date of Report: September 24, 2012
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