FIGURE 14.1 Starts and stops in energy technology policy. NOTE: EPAct 2005, Energy Policy Act of 2005; EISA 2007, Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. SOURCE: Senator Jeff Bingaman, U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

about the costs and capabilities of particular technologies, while not enough consideration is given to the interplay of such programs with other policy areas. And such programs often demonstrate an underappreciation of the scale of the energy enterprise, especially given the difficulties of introducing new technologies on a large scale.

A president has to be thoroughly engaged in the energy problem and willing to put political capital behind it, said Schlesinger. Few presidents are that engaged in energy issues. The one possible exception was President Carter, who unsuccessfully proposed substantial taxation on the use of hydrocarbons, “and so far as I’ve been able to see,” Schlesinger said, “most politicians have not wanted to emulate him.”

The success of governmental policies depends on how well the political process works, Schlesinger observed. But the U.S. government is characterized by a separation of powers, which was designed to avoid a concentration of power that might be dangerous to individual liberties. One consequence of this arrangement is continuous disputation among the three branches of government. “Blame it on King George III,” said Schlesinger.

Politicians also are loath to bring bad news to the public. Schlesinger quoted Russell Long, chair of the Energy Committee, to the effect that the first rule of a politician is to get elected and the second rule is to get re-elected.

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