Every four years, presidential candidates promise to revolutionize energy policy. Since Richard Nixon, every president has vowed that we would have “energy independence” within the foreseeable future. Yet it is rarely asked: Why is the federal government so involved in energy in the first place?

The federal government has no compelling interest in handling America’s energy needs: as with other commodities, energy is best managed by the marketplace, and the more centralized the government that attempts to regulate and ration it, the worse things get. The Department of Energy has only been around since the late 1970s and every major federal proposal we hear—be it for ethanol, solar panels, more nuclear plants, or some other alternative—represents some economic interests pushing to have their products subsidized by a captive market. Central planning and corporatism are not the path to cheap or renewable energy, nor more secure energy supplies.

For the MyGovCost Calculator, energy spending includes the activities of the Department of Energy, including supply, conservation, emergency preparedness, and regulation.

Learn more about Energy problems and solutions:

“Federal Fisker Failure, Continued”
K. Lloyd Billingsley (MyGovCost) April 29, 2013

“Think Ethanol is Environmentally Friendly? Think Again.”
William F. Shughart II (Miami Herald) March 12, 2013

“Smoke and Mirrors in Energy Policy”
Ivan Eland (The Independent Institute) June 13, 2012

“Obama’s Schizo Energy Policy: Counterproductive Approach to Oil Pollution”
William F. Shughart II (The Washington Times) May 24, 2011

“Taking the Wind Out of Energy”
Alvaro Vargas Llosa; December 2, 2009

“A Missed Opportunity on Energy”
Robert H. Nelson (The Baltimore Sun) February 17, 2010

“Electric Choices: Deregulation and the Future of Electric Power”
Andrew N. Kleit (book summary)

See Also:

Independent Institute’s Archive on Energy