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Efforts to address energy issues

Efforts to address energy issues

Author: Jensen Morgan

This lesson describes efforts to address energy issues in the United States.

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Efforts to Address Energy Issues

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Hi, I'm Jensen Morgan. We're going to talk about some great concepts in environmental science.

Today's topic is efforts to address energy issues. So let's get started. We're going to talk about supply and demand-related policy in the US surrounding energy, the Energy Policy Act, private business, and individual actions that can be taken to address energy issues, and impacts that US energy policy has made.

In order to address energy issues, whether it be at the global or national level, there are two tipping points that can be utilized-- increasing the energy supply and/or or decreasing energy demand. At present, most efforts to address energy have been the former-- increasing energy supply and its sources.

Let's get a little bit of a historical background. In the 1970s, there was international political tension between the US and a number of countries that resulted in an oil shortage. By 1973, the cost of a barrel of oil had quadrupled, resulting in empty gas stations and fuel rationing. In response, Congress ratified the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 to establish a reserve of oil in the US, to prevent any further shortages. The act also required better automobile efficiency standards to reduce demand for oil and gasoline.

US energy policy has addressed industries on an individual basis, without approaching it with any comprehensive plan-- allowed free market philosophy to determine the US energy mix, provided significant subsidies for nuclear power and fossil fuels, as well as some subsidies for renewable sources. US policy tends to seek and support inexpensive, abundant, and reliable energy sources, with the end goal of supporting economic growth. Overall, the majority of US policy actions towards energy have been to provide subsidies and tax credits for oil and gas.

Before global climate change became a widely accepted political issue, energy was not seen as an environmental issue. Therefore, the US Department of Energy focused itself on defense work related to nuclear energy. In the '70s, President Carter framed energy as a national security issue and encouraged an increase in coal consumption and production. In recent years, energy has been framed as a national security issue, as well as an economic growth opportunity by scaling up renewables and creating more green jobs.

Let's take a step back for a moment. Historically, humans have transitioned from sources of energy that are less dense to ones that are more dense. This has allowed humans to spend more time on specialization and tasks other than the bare essentials of food and shelter.

So we transitioned from using human power to wood, then coal, and now oil. It Is uncertain what the next more energy-dense source of energy will be.

Now let's talk about demand-related policy. This type of policy has mostly been focused on increasing energy efficiency through technology, as opposed to directly reducing energy use behaviors. Since the 1970s, policies that have been implemented for this purpose include incentives for small power generators, tax credits for installing home insulation, energy efficiency standards for light bulbs and home appliances, taxes on automobiles that are low efficiency and require large quantities of fuel, and finally, a slightly different approach was to disincentivize gasoline use by adding higher taxes.

The Energy Policy Act of '92 sought to address contemporary energy issues through the following-- federal requirements to use alternative fuels and fleets, funding devoted to energy research, efficiency requirements in federal buildings, tax credits for consumer investments in efficiency, increases in automobile emissions standards, and set goals for greenhouse gas reductions.

Private businesses and individuals have taken action to address energy issues, as well. Some businesses choose to construct and operate their buildings energy-efficiently, install renewable energy sources on site, such as a PV array or a wind turbine. Individuals also have done this by installing PV on their roofs or even, in rare cases, utilizing geothermal. Individuals have also requested that their utility provide them with more renewable energy sources, chosen to consume less energy in their homes, and purchase more energy-efficient appliances and products.

Impacts from US policy have been increased production of renewable energy, increased production of biofuels-- mostly ethanol from corn. Some experts note, however, that the cultivation, fertilization, harvesting, and transportation of biofuels may outweigh their positive impacts, because it ends up reducing carbon emissions equivalent to that of fossil fuel sources of energy.

Policy has maintained US dependence on fossil fuels and, as a result, maintain production of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Overall, US energy policy has not directly addressed environmental or human health impacts from energy use, but has instead focused on the amount of produced energy and its sources.

Now let's have a recap. Today we talked about US energy policy in relation to supply and demand, the US Energy Policy Act, actions taken by private businesses and individuals to address energy challenges, and the impacts US energy policy has had.

Well, that's all for this tutorial. I hope these concepts have been helpful, and I look forward to next time. Bye.