GEOG 432
Energy Policy

History of Major Energy Policy Landmarks


Here's a look at landmarks in energy legislation in US history. Don't worry - I don't expect you to read them all! If you want to know more about any particular law, I encourage you to visit for summaries, full text of the bills, amendments, and more.

Energy Policy 1920-2009
Year Description

Federal Water Power Act
Encouraged the development of hydroelectric power projects

Established the Federal Power Commission (replaced in 1977 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission)

Renamed Federal Power Act in 1935 - expanded the Commission's jurisdiction to include all interstate electricity transmission


Public Utility Holding Company Act

Regulated the size and geographic range of electric and natural gas utilities

Required all public utility holding companies to register with the SEC in an effort to curb questionable business practices among large utility companies during the 1920s and 1930s


Rural Electrification Act

Provided federal loans to install electrical distribution systems to rural areas through cooperative electrical companies that bought electricity wholesale and then distributed it through their own transmission and distribution lines


Natural Gas Act

Gave FPC authority to set "just and reasonable" rates for interstate transmission and sales of natural gas

Required DOE approval for the permitting, siting, construction, and operation of import and export facilities

Required FPC approval for abandonment of pipelines or services


Atomic Energy Act

Decided that nuclear weapon development and nuclear power management would be under civilian control (not military); established the US Atomic Energy Commission

Imposed a strict ban on the release of atomic technology to other world powers, even allies

Amended in 1954 to refine many aspects of the original Act including allowing for more exchange of information with foreign countries, providing for the government to share technical information with private companies regarding the development of nuclear energy production, and reversed some provisions from the original Act that made patenting processes regarding nuclear energy impossible


Energy Reorganization Act

Established the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, splitting the responsibility for nuclear weapons and civilian nuclear power between the DOE and the NRC, respectively

Provided protections for employees raising concerns over nuclear safety


Energy Policy and Conservation Act

Established the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Mandated vehicle fuel economy standards

Extended oil price controls through 1979


Department of Energy Organization Act

Established the Department of Energy as a Cabinet level organization, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) within the DOE


National Energy Act

Established tax incentives and disincentives, alternative fuel programs, energy efficiency initiatives, and other regulatory and market-based initiatives in response to the oil crisis earlier in the decade

Comprised of 5 statutes:

  1. Energy Tax Act

    Created the Gas Guzzler tax for vehicles with mileage below specified levels

    Offered income tax credit for citizens using solar, wind, or geothermal energy sources at home

  2. Natural Gas Policy Act

    Set up wellhead pricing maximums, rules for allocating costs of high-cost gas to industrial consumers, and provided authority to high priority users in times of supply emergency; gave FERC jurisdiction over almost all natural gas production

  3. National Energy Conservation Policy Act

    Replaced Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) set forth in the EPCA of 1975

    Changed energy standards from voluntary to mandatory

    Required federal agencies to do energy audits of their operations

    Provided loans for families to purchase solar heating or cooling systems

    Established grants for schools, hospitals, local governments, and public housing authorities willing to use energy conservation measures

  4. Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act

    Restricted construction of power plants fueled primarily by oil or natural gas and instead encouraged power plants fueled by coal, nuclear, and alternative fuels

    Restricted use of oil and natural gas in industrial boilers

    Repealed in 1987 with the Natural Gas Utilization Act

  5. Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act

    Passed as part of NEA

    Promoted use of renewable energy, encouraged cogeneration plants

    Federal regulation, left to states to implement, so a variety of regimes developed (and some states did nothing at all)


Energy Security Act

  • Title I: US Synthetic Fuels Corporation Act

Established the Synthetic Fuels Corporation (which only existed until 1985) for the purpose of partnering with industry for the creation of a market for domestically-produced synthetic liquid fuels; moved research and development for synthetic fuels away from the Department of Energy and into this public-private partnership with the hopes of speeding up results

  • Title II: Biomass Energy and Alcohol Fuels Act

Provided loan guarantees for small-scale biomass energy projects; established the Office of Alcohol Fuels, the Office of Energy from Municipal Waste

  • Title III: Energy Targets

Requires the submission (by the President to Congress) of energy targets for net imports, domestic production, and end-use consumption of energy for 1985, 1990, 1995, and 2000.

The targets are only goals and do not have any legal implications.

  • Title IV: Renewable Initiatives

Established incentives for the use of renewable energy resources

  • Title V: Solar Energy and Energy Conservation

Encouraged energy conservation and the use of solar energy, reducing dependence on foreign energy supplies; established the Solar Energy and Energy Conservation Bank (repealed in 1992)

  • Title VI: Geothermal Energy Act

Authorized loans from the Geothermal Resources Development Fund for exploration and determination of economic viability of a geothermal reservoir, cancels loan if reservoir is deemed unacceptable for development

Required geothermal energy to be considered in new Federal buildings

  • Title VII: Acid Precipitation Program

Established a task force to study the causes and risks of acid precipitation

  • Title VIII: Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Established that 500,000,000 barrels of crude oil must be in storage before any can be sold and calls for the reserve to increase its supply 100,000 barrels per day until the storage capacity is reached


Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Act

Promoted the development of ocean thermal energy conversion to minimize dependence on foreign oil, with NOAA having the authority to license OTEC facilities, but low fossil fuel prices resulted in no requests for license applications being filed


Nuclear Waste Policy Act

Required Secretary of Energy to issue guidelines for selecting sites for 2 permanent nuclear waste repositories, required the President to review recommendations and submit to Congress his selection for the first site by March 31, 1987 and for the second site by March 31, 1990

Authorized DOE to provide about 1900 metric tons of temporary storage capacity

Established a fund to pay for costs associated with constructing and operating a permanent repository


Energy Policy Act

Amended the National Energy Conservation Policy Act of 1978

Created framework for wholesale electricity generation

Provided financial incentives to users/developers of clean-fuel vehicles; repealed alternative minimum tax for some producers

Intended to expand the use of natural gas


Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (Farm Bill)

First time an Energy Title was included in the Farm Bill - including $405 million in mandatory funding over the following 5 years for the procurement of biobased products, grants and loans for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, research and development and the bioenergy program

Included for reasons of national energy and security, rural economic development, and environmental sustainability in light of climate change impacts


Energy Policy Act

Offers tax benefits to individuals who increase energy efficiency in existing homes, buy or lease hybrid/alternative vehicles

Required all public utilities to offer net metering on request

Increased required amounts of renewable fuel in gasoline sold in the US

Encourages more domestic energy production


Energy Independence and Security Act

Increased CAFE standards to 35 mpg (fleetwide for passenger autos and light trucks) by 2020; instituted new conservation measures for federal fleet vehicles; authorized increased taxpayer-funded biofuel production (36 billion gallons by 2022 - 21 billion of which must be derived from non-cornstarch products)

Revised standards for appliances and lighting; all federal buildings must use Energy Star lighting products; training for green jobs; loans for small business energy efficiency improvements


Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (Farm Bill)

Includes provisions for loan guarantees for biorefineries, payments to support expansion of advanced biofuels, expands the existing Rural Energy for America Program, provides grant monies for biofuel and biobased product research and development


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

A massive $800 billion economic stimulus package aimed at job creation and the promotion of investment and consumer spending

Included $4.3 billion in tax credits to homeowners for energy efficiency improvements in 2009-2010, $300 million for reducing diesel engine emissions, $21.5 billion for energy infrastructure, $27.2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research and investment, $2 billion in research for DOE, $600 million in research for NOAA


The Clean Power Plan

The first comprehensive plan to address carbon emissions nationally

Provides states flexibility in meeting reduction goals