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CRS — Energy Policy: 112th Congress Issues and Legislative Proposals

December 3, 2012

Energy Policy: 112th Congress Issues and Legislative Proposals (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Energy 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 countries.

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.

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