As the United States struggles to emerge from a historic recession, energy has emerged as both a bright spot and a source of ongoing challenges for the nation’s long-term prosperity and security.
On the one hand, when adjusted for economic growth and inflation, the United States has cut its energy needs by more than 50 percent since 1973, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. Treating this 40- year reduction as the equivalent of new energy supply, the resulting resource is significantly larger than the expansion of output from all other energy resources combined over the same period. In addition, there have been major positive developments on the supply side: Domestic oil, natural gas, and renewable energy production are up, while energy imports are down; new energy development is driving a jobs boom in many parts of the country; and lower energy costs are helping the U.S. manufacturing sector recover.
The combination of these trends means that the nation is arguably more energy secure than it has been in more than a generation. But the news is not all good: Affordable energy is still a challenge for many households and businesses; the oil and gas boom comes with environmental challenges; the electric grid faces hurdles in upgrading infrastructure and integrating new renewable sources; public research and development (R&D) in energy is insufficient to maintain an international competitive edge; and the issues of climate change, global energy market volatility, and competition for energy resources by countries with growing economies remain. The Strategic Energy Policy Initiative, a project of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and led by a diverse 20-member Energy Board, was launched in 2011 to build the bipartisan consensus needed to tackle these challenges in the years ahead. Americans are fortunate: The nation has enormous energy strengths, greatly exceeding those of most industrialized nations. Building on these strengths to deliver affordable, secure, and reliable energy in an environmentally responsible manner is the overarching goal of the recommendations outlined in this report. Specifically, we, the Energy Board, believe U.S. energy policy should be designed to advance four core objectives:
- pursue a diverse portfolio of energy resources;
- improve the energy productivity of the U.S. economy;
- accelerate innovation and technology improvements across the energy sector;
- improve energy policy governance and accountability.
It is important to emphasize at the outset that the actions we propose in each of these areas should be viewed as a package—no single Energy Board member necessarily agrees with each individual recommendation in isolation. Taken together, however, we believe this set of recommendations provides the blueprint for a balanced and effective plan for enhancing the nation’s prosperity, energy security, and sustainable environmental quality in the 21st century.