Department of Energy, U.S.
Department of Energy, U.S. (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) began operations October 1, 1977, having been created by legislation signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on August 4, 1977. That legislation merged a number of existing federal agencies into a single cabinet department answering to the president. This action was taken during a time of energy shortages in the United States; it was believed that a single governmental body would be more effective than a variety of independent agencies in implementing a national energy policy.
During the early twentieth century, the U.S. government was little involved in making policy concerning energy use other than its role in implementing daylight saving time during the world wars. After World War II, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established to oversee nuclear energy technology. In 1974 the AEC was dissolved, and two new agencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) were created by the Energy Reorganization Act. ERDA, along with other agencies, became the Department of Energy in 1977. By the twenty-first century DOE included dozens of offices, agencies, and administrations.
Through its various offices and agencies, DOE seeks to provide a framework for a comprehensive energy policy for the United States. The department is responsible for the regulation of various parts of the energy industry within the United States. Another important...
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Nuclear Energy and Weapons (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
DOE works closely with the NRC to oversee the nation’s nuclear energy industry. DOE’s Nuclear Energy Office manages research programs for both fission and fusion energy systems. Naval nuclear reactors are managed directly by DOE, but the department shares responsibility with the NRC for management and regulation of civilian reactors. Through its Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, DOE is responsible for both civilian and military radioactive waste storage and disposal.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an agency within DOE, oversees military nuclear technology. This includes military nuclear reactors, such as naval nuclear propulsion systems, as well as the nation’s nuclear arsenal. American nuclear weapons are technically on loan to the Department of Defense from DOE. The NNSA assumes responsibility for the manufacture, maintenance, transport, and safekeeping of these nuclear weapons. DOE also works to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons through controls on the export of technology that could be used in the production of such weapons.
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Environmental and Conservation Efforts (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
DOE works with other federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to research technologies that may reduce the environmental impacts of energy production and use. Much of this research is conducted through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which supports research into renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal. EERE is involved in research into high-risk, high-value energy technologies that private industry is unwilling to investigate until they can be proven economically viable. DOE also works with local and state governments to provide information on energy efficiency and clean energy technology.
In addition to its role in developing new sources of clean energy, DOE works to promote energy conservation and supports research into more efficient energy production, transmission, and consumption. As part of this work, DOE is involved, along with the EPA, in supporting the Energy Star program, which promotes efficiency in a wide variety of home and office products. The Weatherization Assistance Program, administered by EERE, assists low-income home owners with weatherproofing their homes and making them more energy-efficient. EERE also provides information to the public regarding energy-efficient construction.
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Consumer’s Union of the United States. “Energy Star Has Lost Some Luster.” Consumer Reports, October, 2008, 24-26.
Dietz, Thomas, and Paul C. Stern, eds. Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2008.
Holl, Jack. The United States Department of Energy: A History. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1982.
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Department of Energy, U.S.
Background (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The Department of Energy is part of the executive branch of the U.S. government. The secretary of energy is a member of the president’s cabinet, confirmed by the Senate. James Schlesinger was the first energy secretary. Established by Congress on October 1, 1977, the Department of Energy assumed responsibilities that numerous federal agencies had previously had in managing the nation’s natural resources. The Department of Energy assumed duties long exercised by the Department of the Interior and three federal agencies—the Federal Power Commission, the Federal Energy Administration, and the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA). The Department of Energy also oversees the nation’s nuclear energy and weapons programs.
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Impact on Resource Use (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The Department of Energy was established during the administration of President Jimmy Carter in reaction to the oil crisis of the 1970’s. Its roots, however, go deeper in history. The federal government had always played a role in developing and managing the nation’s water, timber, mineral, coal, oil, and other energy resources. With the Manhattan Project of the 1940’s and the Atomic Energy Commission of the 1950’s (eventually incorporated into the ERDA), the federal government exercised exclusive control over the creation of atomic weapons and energy. The Department of Energy assumed these responsibilities by way of the October 1, 1977, Department of Energy Organization Act. The United States has always enjoyed an abundance of energy through its vast natural resources and unparalleled industrial development. However, in the 1970’s, the nation had to reassess its energy situation when the major oil-producing countries declared oil embargoes. The response was the creation of the Department of Energy, whose mandate was to foster energy research, development, and production to meet domestic and international challenges. In line with Carter’s energy policies, the Department of Energy began programs to increase use of solar energy and to conserve fossil-fuel resources. The administration of President Ronald Reagan emphasized increased production of energy by reducing federal regulation of the energy supply. In response...
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