Tuesday, February 12, 2013

CRS Report Released: Energy Policy: 113th Congress Issues

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Energy Policy: 113th Congress Issues (Jan. 3, 2013). The 12-page report authored by Carl E. Behrens discusses the following:


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 was an important issue in the 2012 presidential campaign, and there were 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 argued that the Obama Administration has blocked oil and gas development, and declared 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 acknowledged that human activity contributes to global warming, but claimed there is no consensus on its extent or severity. He opposed unilateral measures that do not include actions by developing countries.
The 112th Congress did not take up comprehensive energy legislation, but numerous bills were considered on specific energy issues. Several notable bills that passed the House but were not taken up by the Senate were H.R. 4480, aimed at increasing leasing of federal land for oil and gas production; H.R. 2401 and H.R. 3409, which would have limited EPA’s issuance of new emissions restrictions for coal-fired power plants; and H.R. 6213, which would have prohibited the Department of Energy from granting loan guarantees for innovative and renewable energy projects.

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