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Journal Article / Climate

Is Conflating Climate with Energy Policy a Good Idea?

Author(s): ELLERMAN Denny

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This essay reviews the evolution of energy policy and climate policy in the United States and notes that the difference between the two has become increasingly less. In the nearly forty years that energy has been a public policy issue, it has always been characterized by impossible goals concerning reduced oil imports, but in the early years (the 1970s), a reasonably coherent set of measures dealt effectively with the pricing problems that were causing energy shortages. This stands in marked contrast to later energy policy which has evolved into a generalized justification for measures that have little in common other than some relation, however slight, to reducing oil imports. Putting a price on carbon has been a salient aspect of climate policy until recently; however, that ambition is fading fast and climate policy has increasingly become, like what remains of energy policy, one among a number of justifications for promoting particular forms of energy, usually renewable energy and energy efficiency. The success of latter-day energy policy in achieving the avowed objective, reduced oil import levels, should give pause to those who expect a similar effect on greenhouse gas emissions from the conflation of climate with energy policy.