The Commission had two overarching objectives. The first was to develop recommendations that can ensure ample, clean, reliable, and affordable energy for the United States in the 21st century while responding to growing concerns about the nation’s energy security and the risks of global climate change. The second was for its recommendations to command the bipartisan support necessary to break the long-running energy policy stalemate in the Congress and be enacted. In seeking to meet these objectives, the Commission adhered to several guiding principles. It preferred market-based solutions and gradual adjustments rather than dramatic interventions. It sought to take into account the law of unintended consequences. It aimed for revenue neutrality, economic efficiency, cost-effectiveness, low consumer impacts, appropriate incentives for future action, flexibility for future adjustments, equity, political viability, and ease of implementation, monitoring, and measurement.
The Commission’s 2004 report made a variety of important recommendations. With regard to oil and gas supplies, it encouraged nations with underdeveloped oil reserves to allow foreign investment in their energy sectors. It supported research and development on technologies to mitigate the environmental impacts of developing unconventional oil resources. It urged the United States to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and encouraged other nations to establish publicly owned reserves. It recommended creating incentives for construction of an Alaskan natural gas pipeline and removing hurdles for the siting and construction of liquid natural gas facilities. It also recommended increased resources for public land planning and permitting.
With regard to dampening the growth of demand for liquid fuels, the Commission recommended significantly strengthening federal fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks while also reforming the CAFE program. It urged that manufacturer and consumer incentives be put in place to promote domestic production and increased use of advanced diesel and hybrid-electric cars. It also proposed pursuing efficiencies in the heavy-duty truck fleet and the existing passenger vehicle fleet.
To address climate change risks, the Commission proposed initiating in 2010 a mandatory, economy-wide, tradable-permits system to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The permit system would be designed to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of the United States by 2.4 percent per year and would have a “safety valve” (which is discussed later in this chapter) to prevent excessive economic dislocations. The Commission also recommended linking subsequent U.S. action with comparable efforts by other developed and developing nations via a program review in 2015 and every 5 years thereafter. “This was the provision that was necessary to assure people on the Commission concerned about the competitiveness effect of the United States’ embracing a price on carbon emissions and having our major competitors not do so,” said Holdren.
A set of recommendations directed to protecting critical energy infrastructure called for addressing the vulnerability of the electricity grid to attack and