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The energy policy of the United States is determined by federal, state and local public entities in the United Statesmarker, 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), but no comprehensive long-term energy policy has been proposed, although there has been concern over this failure. Three Energy Policy Acts have been passed, in 1992, 2005, and 2007, 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.The United States had resisted endorsing the Kyoto Protocol, preferring to let the market drive CO2 reductions to mitigate global warming, which will require CO2 emission taxation. The administration of Barack Obama has proposed an aggressive energy policy reform, including the need for a reduction of CO2 emissions, with a cap and trade program, 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. Later, coal gas was fractionated for use as lighting and town gas. Natural gas was first used in America for lighting in 1816.[244131], it has grown in importance for use in homes, industry, and power plants, but natural gas production reached its U.S. peak in 1973,[244132] 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. 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. 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. As oil imports increased, US foreign policy was inexorably drawn into Middle East politics, supporting oil-producing Saudi Arabiamarker and patrolling the sea lanes of the Persian Gulfmarker.

Hydroelectricity was the basis of Nikola Tesla's introduction of the U.S. electricity grid, starting at Niagara Falls, NYmarker in 1883.[244133] Electricity generated by major dams like the Jensen Dam, TVA Project, Grand Coulee Dammarker and Hoover Dammarker still produce some of the lowest-priced ($0.08/kWh), clean electricity in America. Rural electrification strung power lines to many more areas.

Utilities have their rates set to earn a revenue stream that provides them with a constant 10% - 13% rate of return based on operating costs. Increases or decreases of the operating costs of electricity production are passed directly through to the consumers.

The federal government provided substantially larger subsidies to fossil fuels than to renewables in the 2002-2008 period. Subsidies to fossil fuels totaled approximately $72 billion over the study period, representing a direct cost to taxpayers. Subsidies for renewable fuels, totaled $29 billion over the same period.

Energy independence and resilience

United States oil production peaked in 1970 and began to decline.
By 2005 imports were about twice as great as production.
The 1973 oil crisis made energy a popular topic of discussion in the US. 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. 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.

The United States receives approximately 84% of its energy from fossil fuels. This energy is used for transport, industry, and domestic use. The remaining portion comes primarily from Hydro and Nuclear stations. Americans constitute less than 5% of the world's population, but consumes 26% of the world's energy to produce 26% of the world's industrial output. They account for about 25% of the world's petroleum consumption, while producing only 6% of the world's annual petroleum supply and having only 3% of the world’s known oil reserves.

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. 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. The percentage of corn going to biofuel is expected to go up. In 2006, U.S. Senators introduced the BioFuels Security Act.

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. 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, mass transit, higher housing density and walking could also reduce automobile fuel consumption and obesity.Carpooling, flexcars, Smart cars, and shorter commutes could all reduce fuel use.

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. The peaking of world hydrocarbon production (Peak oil) may test Malthus' critics.

United States' relationships with oil-producing countries

The US imports petroleum from many countries.
Canada is the biggest source, followed by Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela
The close relationship the United States has with Saudi Arabiamarker, 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.

The Saudis alone 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 Kingdommarker. As American demand for Saudi oil continues at 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 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.

In 2008 the U.S. House Financial Services Committee considered 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 flawed and infeasible 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), which can be produced using multiple sources of energy, including renewables.

The plan of Repower America is to generate 100% of electricity by 2020 using renewable resources, plus the current mix of 17% nuclear power, minus a 28% efficiency increase, clean plug-in electric cars, and a unified national grid.

Energy consumption

US energy consumption by primary consuming sector
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 AIAmarker 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.

When President Carter created the U.S. Department of Energy in 1977, one of their first successful projects was the 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. Increased energy efficiency and weatherization spending has a high return on investment.

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 may cost much less than the current model. 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.


US energy consumption by primary source
About 86% of all types of energy used in the United States is derived from fossil fuels. In 2007, the largest source of the country's energy came from petroleum (40%), followed by natural gas (24%) and coal (23%). The remaining 15% was supplied by nuclear power, hydroelectric dams, and miscellaneous renewable sources.


The US consumes of petroleum a day, of which is motor gasoline. Transportation has the highest consumption rates, accounting for approximately 68.9% of the oil used in the United States in 2006,
 and 55% of oil use worldwide as documented in the Hirsch report. Automobiles are the single largest consumer of oil, consuming 40%, and are also the source of 20% of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

The USA has about reserves while consuming about per year. This has created pressure for additional drilling. New oilfields would not solve the oil crisis however, but only delay it. A far simpler solution is to reduce demand. The average U.S. car gets 20.4 mpg., while the average European car gets 40 mpg. Improving fuel economy is seen as a superior route to energy security. In a memo to the EPA, Obama has asked the EPA to reconsider denying an exception to California, and also asked that updated fuel standards for 2011 be published by March 30, 2009. 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.

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 pipelinemarker 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 would be 70% to 75% reliant on foreign oil by the middle of the next decade.


US coal regions

America is self sufficient in coal. Indeed, it has several hundred years supply of it. 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. 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.

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.

Coal in transit in Ohio

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. 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. The simplest, most stable form of carbon sequestration is to simply leave the coal in the ground.

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

Nuclear power

Aerial view of cooling towers and nuclear plant.

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-1marker was a test reactor built to power a handful of incandescent bulbs in 1951 at Idaho National Laboratorymarker near Atomic Citymarker, 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.

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 Francemarker, where nuclear power provides about 78% of the electricity.

As of March 9, 2009, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission had received 26 applications for permission to construct new nuclear power reactors with at least another 7 expected. Six of these reactors have actually been ordered. In addition, the Tennessee Valley Authority petitioned to restart construction on the first two units at Bellefontemarker.

Nuclear power plants produce large quantities of water vapor 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 Laboratorymarker (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. The hydrogen would cost less, and the nuclear power plant would exhaust less heat and water vapor into the atmosphere.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy accounted for more than 10 percent of the domestically-produced energy used in the United Statesmarker in the first half of 2008. The United States' hydroelectric plants produce 300,000 MW, making the largest contribution to the country's renewable energy. However, wind power in the United States is a growing industry. Increases in wind, solar, and geothermal power are expected to allow renewable energy production to double in the three year period from 2009 to 2012, an increase from 7% to 14% of total consumption. Most of the increase is expected to come from wind power.

At the end of December 2008, the US wind power capacity was 25,170 MW, which is enough to serve 7 million average households. The American Wind Energy Association has reported that wind projects installed through to the end of 2008 generated 52 million megawatt-hours (MWh), representing 1.26% of the nation’s electricity in 2008, or enough electricity for some 7 million households. Texas is firmly established as the leader in wind power development in the U.S., followed by Iowa and California. The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Centermarker in Texas is the world's largest wind farm at 735.5 MW capacity. Available wind resources exceed 1 Million GWh/year in each of five states.

Several solar thermal power stations, including the new 64 MW Nevada Solar Onemarker, 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.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.

Utilities in the southwestern United States are planning to build or buy power from several large new concentrating solar power plants. In 2009, Southern California Edison reached an agreement with BrightSource Energy for 1,300 MW of solar power, to be supplied using solar power tower technology. NRG Energy also signed an agreement with eSolar to develop three solar projects totaling up to 500 MW, also using solar power towers.

With 2,957 MW of installed geothermal capacity, the United States remains the world leader with 30% of the online capacity total. As of early 2009, 120 new projects are underway. 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.

President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes more than $70 billion in direct spending and tax credits for clean energy and associated transportation programs. This policy-stimulus combination represents the largest federal commitment in U.S. history for renewable energy, advanced transportation, and energy conservation initiatives. As a result of these new initiatives, many more utilities are expected to strengthen their clean energy programs.


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. 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.

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.

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. 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. Produced responsibly they are sustainable energy sources that need not divert any land from growing food, nor damage the environment.

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.

Several states, including California, New York, Rhode Island, and 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.

Energy efficiency action plans

In March 2009, Vice President Joe Biden announced plans to invest $3.2 billion in energy efficiency and energy conservation projects in the United States. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants program, funded by President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will provide grants for projects that reduce total energy use and fossil fuel emissions, and improve energy efficiency nationwide.

DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have released an updated version of the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency "Vision for 2025: A Framework for Change", which lays out a proposed energy efficiency action plan for state policy makers. If implemented by all states, the plan could lower energy demand across the country by 50%, achieve more than $500 billion in net savings over the next 20 years, and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 90 million vehicles. The report, which was released under the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency initiative, was produced by more than 60 energy, environmental, and state policy leaders from across the country. The updated action plan encourages investment in low-cost energy efficiency programs and shows the progress that the states are making toward their goals, while identifying areas for additional progress. The report is accompanied by two technical assistance documents that offer cost-effectiveness tests for energy efficiency programs and best practices for providing data to businesses.

Energy policy budget and incentives

An incentive resulting from US energy policy is a factor that provides motive for a specific course of action regarding the use of energy. In the U.S. most energy policy incentives take the form of financial incentives. Examples of these include tax breaks, tax reductions, tax exemptions, rebates, loans and specific funding. Throughout US history there have been many incentives created through U.S. energy policy. Most recently the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, each promote various energy efficiency improvements and encourage development of specific energy sources. U.S. Energy policy incentives can serve as a strategic manner to develop certain industries that plan to reduce America’s dependence on foreign petroleum products and create jobs and industries that boost the national economy. The ability to do this depends upon which industries and products the government chooses to subsidize.


President Barack Obama unveiled on May 7 a $26.4 billion budget request for DOE for fiscal year (FY) 2010, including $2.3 billion for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The budget aims to substantially expand the use of renewable energy sources while improving energy transmission infrastructure. It also makes significant investments in hybrid and plug-in hybrids, in smart grid technologies, and in scientific research and innovation.

Biofuel subsidies

In the United States biofuel subsidies have been justified on the following grounds: energy independence, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, improvements in rural development related to biofuel plants and farm income support. Several economists from Iowa State University found “ there is no evidence to disprove that the primary objective of biofuel policy is to support farm income.”

Consumer subsidies

Consumers who purchase hybrid vehicles are eligible for a tax credit that depends upon the type of vehicle and the difference in fuel economy in comparison to vehicles of similar weights. These credits range from several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Homeowners can receive a tax credit up to $500 for energy efficient products like insulation, windows, doors, as well as heating and cooling equipment. Homeowners who install solar electric systems can receive a 30% tax credit and homeowners who install small wind systems can receive a tax credit up to $4000. Geothermal heat pumps also qualify for tax credits up to $2,000.

Other subsidies

Recent energy policy incentives have provided, among other things, billions of dollars in tax reductions for nuclear power, fossil fuel production, clean coal technologies,renewable electricity production, and conservation and efficiency improvements.

Carbon emissions

Although possibly exceeded by Chinamarker, 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 Texasmarker produces approximately 1.5 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide yearly, more than every nation in the world except five (and the United States): China, Russia, Japan, India, and Germany.

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. Many cities, however, have adopted Kyoto. As of March 11, 2007, 418 US cities in 50 states, representing more than 60 million Americans adopted Kyoto after Mayor Greg Nickels of Seattlemarker started a nationwide effort to get cities to agree to the protocol.

The Obama Administration has promised to take specific action towards mitigation of climate change. In addition, at state and local levels, 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), 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, 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.

In the non-binding 'Washington Declaration' agreed on February 16, 2007, the United States, together with Presidents or Prime Ministers from Canadamarker, Francemarker, Germanymarker, Italymarker, Japanmarker, Russiamarker, United Kingdommarker, Brazilmarker, Chinamarker, Indiamarker, Mexicomarker 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.

Chemistry Professor Nathan Lewis at Caltechmarker 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.

The book, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free, A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, 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. The book calls for phasing out use of oil, natural gas, and coal which does not use carbon sequestration by the year 2050. Effective delivered energy is projected to increase from about 75 Quadrillion Btu in 2005 to about 125 Quadrillion in 2050, 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. 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.

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."

Texas Billionaire T. Boone Pickens has promoted the Pickens Plan with a television advertisement campaign questioning the current state of energy in the US. He is an advocate of renewable energy sources and proposed building a 4000 MW wind farm in the state of Texas. Even Indiana, estimated to have a potential for developing only 30 MW of wind power in 1991 using 50 m high wind turbines, was in 2006 estimated as having the potential for 40,000 MW of wind power, using higher, 70 m turbines, and possibly twice that with modern 100 m high turbines.


Long distance electric power transmission results in energy loss, through electrical resistance, heat generation, electromagnetic induction and less-than-perfect electrical insulation. In 1995, these losses were estimated at 7.2%. 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. 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.


US Energy Use: Quad BTU.
(1 Quad/s=1 trillion MW; 1 Quad/year = 7.5 Gigawatts)
  • production 3,873 TWh produced in 2008 [244134]

Electricity - production by source:
  • petroleum: 1%
  • natural gas: 17%
  • coal: 51%
  • renewable: 9%
  • nuclear: 21% (2008) [244135]

  • production: 8.514 million barrel/day (2008 est.)
  • consumption: 19.5 million barrel/day (2008 est.) [244136]

Heat Engines are only 20% efficient at converting raw energy (oil) into work. Electric transmission (production to consumer) loses over 23% of the energy due to generation, transmission, and distribution

Carbon emissions

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide versus Time

US carbon dioxide emissions (thousands of metric tons of CO2)
Year CO2 Change from 1990
1990 4,825,360 0.00%
1991 4,835,750 0.22%
1992 4,811,240 -0.29%
1993 5,093,340 5.55%
1994 5,191,960 7.60%
1995 5,191,790 7.59%
1996 5,296,900 9.77%
1997 5,563,500 15.30%
1998 5,513,530 14.26%
1999 5,608,310 16.23%
2000 5,803,410 20.27%
2001 5,757,010 19.31%
2002 5,805,750 20.32%
2003 5,799,240 20.18%

Public opinion

The US results from the 1st Annual World Environment Review, published on June 5, 2007 revealed that:
  • 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.
  • 67% think that the US Government should allow more off shore drilling.

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.

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.

General legislative policy, legislation and plans

The Obama administration includes Dr. Steven Chu, to head the U.S. Department of Energy.

As of February, 2008, the goals linked from the DOE website are:

  • Provide short-term relief to American families

  • Eliminate our current imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years

  • Create millions of new green jobs

  • Reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050

International cooperation

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

See also


  1. Crisis of Confidence Speech 1979
  2. CRS Report for Congress
  3. Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency
  4. Wood and Coal Stove Advisory
  6. Estimating U.S. Government Subsidies to Energy Sources: 2002-2008, Environmental Law Institute
  7. SEI: Energy Consumption
  8. EIA - Petroleum Basic Data
  9. NRDC: Reducing U.S. Oil Dependence
  10. After the Oil Runs Out,
  11. Global warming rage lets global hunger grow - Telegraph
  12. Baltimore, Chris. "New U.S. Congress looks to boost alternate fuels," The Boston Globe, January 5, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007
  13. Hydrogen cars may be a long time coming
  14. Higher gasoline price seen trimming down Americans, Reuters, 11 September 07 accessed 2 October 2007
  15. Carpool
  16. 8th Annual Emerging Transportation Plenary
  17. Eating Fossil Fuels |
  18. Peak Oil: the threat to our food security
  19. Financial Times; on 3/26/07: "Saudi Peace Plan Revived", p. 24.
  20. U.S. May Make Energy Firms List Payments to Governments
  21. Andy Grove: Our Electric Future
  22. The Plan: Analysis
  23. Architects and Climate Change
  24. Weatherization Assistance Program
  25. Communities of the Future
  26. 2009 Toyota Prius: Spy Report
  27. Ultra-Green: Radical 100-MPG Toyota Prius in the Works for 2009
  28. US Dept. of Energy, U.S. Primary Energy Consumption by Source and Sector, 2007
  29. The Road to Recovery Begins in Detroit accessed 2 October 2007
  30. Advanced Technology Vehicles: The Road Ahead accessed 2 October 2007
  31. Fate of ANWR Hangs in the Balance
  32. Senator Feinstein Opposes Attempt to Open ANWR to Drilling
  33. U.S. ‘stuck in reverse’ on fuel economy
  34. Memorandum California normally has stricter standards than the rest of the country, which can also be adopted by any other state.
  35. Memorandum fuel economy
  36. Gasoline Tops $5 A Gallon In Gorda
  37. Fuel Prices Increase Nationwide as California Braces for $4/Gallon Gas in ‘08
  39. 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
  40. U.S. population hits 300 million mark
  41. U.S. Per Capita Use of Energy
  42. 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
  43. Energy in the United States: 1635-2000 United States Energy Information Administration, United States Department of Energy.
  44. Human-Related Sources and Sinks of Carbon Dioxide
  45. New Policy Could Put CO2 Underground
  46. The great coal hole
  47. Strength through Exhaustion retrieved 17 February 2009
  48. France's nuclear push transforms energy equation
  49. Combined License Applications for New Reactors
  50. Map of new nuclear units
  51. Shaw, Westinghouse sign nuke deal
  52. Microsoft Word - ORNL TM 2006-114.doc
  53. Renewable Energy Tops 10% of U.S. Energy Production
  54. Challenges in the incoming energy scenario associated with
  55. How Realistic is Obama’s Goal to Double Clean Energy by 2012?
  56. American Wind Energy Association (2009). Annual Wind Industry Report, Year Ending 2008 pp. 2-6.
  57. American Wind Energy Association
  58. Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center now largest wind farm in the world
  59. Annual U.S. Wind Power Rankings
  60. SEGS I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII & IX
  61. NRG Energy, Inc. to Develop Up To 500 Megawatts of Solar Thermal Power Plants Using eSolar Technology
  62. REN21 (2009). Renewables Global Status Report: 2009 Update p. 12.
  63. Update: The State of U.S. Geothermal Production and Development
  64. Clean Edge (2009). Clean Energy Trends 2009 pp. 1-4.
  65. Introduction: The Clean Tech Opportunity p. 3.
  66. Worldwatch Institute and Center for American Progress (2006). American energy: The renewable path to energy security
  67. Industrial Biotechnology Is Revolutionizing the Production of Ethanol Transportation Fuel
  68. Hydrogen injection could boost biofuel production
  69. Oxburgh, Ron. Fuelling hope for the future, Courier Mail, 15 August 2007.
  70. Sustainable biofuels: prospects and challenges p. 2.
  71. Opportunities for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions
  72. Recovery Act Announcement: Obama Administration Announces $3.2 Billion in Funding for Local Energy Efficiency Improvements
  73. DOE and EPA Release an Energy Efficiency Action Plan for States
  75. Rubin, Ofir, D. et al. 2008. Implied Objectives of U.S. Biofuel Subsidies. Iowa State University.
  76. Summary of the Credit for Qualified Hybrid Vehicles
  77. Consumer Energy Tax Incentives
  78. Energy Policy Act of 2005
  79. China now no. 1 in CO2 emissions; USA in second positionNetherlands Environmental Assessment Agency retrieved June 20, 2007
  80. BBC: Politicians sign new climate pact, February 16, 2007
  81. Guardian Unlimited: Global leaders reach climate change agreement
  82. Energy Notes
  83. U.S. Stabilization Wedges: Scientific American
  84. Makhijani, Arjun Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free, A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy 2007 ISBN 978-1571431738
  85. Makhijani pg. 3
  86. Makhijani Fig. 5-5, 5-8
  87. Makhijani Fig. 5-7
  88. Makhijani Fig. 5-8
  89. Makhijani Fig. 5-5
  90. Romm, Joseph. "Cleaning up on carbon", June 19, 2008
  91. Indiana's Renewable Energy Resources
  92. Electric System Losses to Inefficiency
  93. Improving IC Engine Efficiency
  94. Carnot Cycle
  95. [
  96. 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
  97. Public Opinion Snapshot: Public Wants Action on Energy and the Environment
  98. Public Opinion Snapshot: Public Wants Action on Energy and the Environment, The Center for American Progress, published 2007-06-15,
  99. Energy Plan Overview
  100. Remarks by Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr.

External links

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