The most significant disputes concerning regulation arise from federal rules governing energy production and the permissible levels of pollution it generates. This series will discuss the nation’s energy policy and identify the major policy issues facing each of the country’s major sources of energy: coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power.
The United States does not have an affirmative policy to provide the energy necessary to propel the economy. Instead, we follow a de facto “policy” of obtaining energy under the incentives and constraints that emerge from the highly decentralized process by which Congress resolves competing claims for subsidies and controls for each separate type of energy. This system is easily driven by events, whether it’s the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactors or a revelation of losses on federal loans to subsidize production of solar panels. The Obama Administration has not sought to implement a coordinated energy policy, but has concentrated on funding development of alternative energy sources and adopting more stringent air pollution controls (which have both the highest costs and greatest health benefits of all federal rules).