The federal government played its first significant role in energy policy during the 1970’s when President Richard Nixon signed into law the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), requiring Federal Agencies to consider the environmental impacts of any project before work on it could begin. NEPA set the goal of creating national policies that encouraged sustainable relationships between growth and development, and environmental welfare.
The need for a coherent national energy policy strengthened with international events of the 1970s. The OPEC oil embargo forced lawmakers to think critically about energy policy as a strategic and economic issue. Under President Jimmy Carter, the Energy Research and Development Administration achieved cabinet status and was renamed the U.S. Department of Energy. By the late 1970’s Congress had passed the first ever comprehensive energy legislation and laid the groundwork for broad federal oversight of national energy policy.
With the OPEC embargo persisting through the 1980’s and the energy fears following the first Gulf war, public alliances began to organize and promote energy independence, sustainability, and efficiency. National awareness began to grow as the voices for change were increasingly heard around Capitol Hill. Public attention on energy issues led the federal government to frame energy policy as one of its most important domestic and international issues.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 marked a significant milestone in national energy policy. The law provided new authorities to the Department of Energy and, when combined with the significant energy related funding provided by the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, provided a significant boost to the renewable energy sector and our nation’s smart grid infrastructure, in addition to furthering alternative energy production and energy efficiency standards, among other measures.
The Congress and the Administration will continue to debate the merits of a Clean Energy Standard given the impact of energy prices on our economy. Actions to support increased domestic production as well as advances in renewable energy technology will be continue to be considered among the many options to reduce energy costs and our nation’s dependence on foreign oil as a transportation fuel, with the ultimate goal of achieving energy security, independence and efficiency for the nation.