U.S. Energy Policy: Driven by Transport System


"Two industries dwarf any other influence on U.S. energy policy. . ."

There is a rather antiquated belief that the oil and gas industry drives U.S. energy policy. This is usually framed in people's minds as a pleading oil and gas lobbyist making sure that the U.S. stays hooked on oil. While this image may be accurate with regards to the U.S. coal industry, which does indeed have heavy influence on Congress and policy, it's much less the case with oil and gas. And here's why: The U.S. automobile and U.S. highway construction industries perform all the heavy lifting one could require, to ensure that U.S. primary energy usage stays overweighted to liquid fuel consumption. These two industries dwarf any other influence on U.S. energy policy through their widespread distribution throughout 50 U.S. states, and Congress.

One of the first major acts of our new president and Congress in 2009 was to invest over $100bn in the auto-manufacturing and highway construction complexes. U.S. energy policy, therefore, is not so much about the oil and gas industry or even the coal industry—it is essentially about how we will use energy in the future, guided most by our transport–not our powergrid–system. Neither on a primary usage basis nor especially on an emissions basis does the powergrid exceed transport as the problem. The president, Congress and especially U.S. governors, remain committed to investing in the Automobile-U.S. Highway Construction complex.

The U.S. does precisely zero to transition away from automobile and highway transport, and quantifiably, undertakes nothing but token investment in other means of conveyance. Meanwhile, we continue to plan for massive, new investment in our highways. It's legitimate to be aggrieved that the global, and U.S., oil and gas industry no doubt spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to restrain regulation over extraction. There's no argument that this is the case, but this skews more towards environmental policy–not overall energy policy–which governs the most important factor of all: demand.

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