A Free-Market Energy Blog

Federal Energy Policy for America (Part III: Cato's priorities–and a few more)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 15, 2011

Editor note: This three-part series began with A Free Market Energy Vision (Part I: Worldview) and continued with Energy for a Free Society: The ‘American Energy Act’ (Part II: Real World Reform).

In their essay on energy policy for the 111th Congress, Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren of the libertarian Cato Institute offered nine priorities to move the United States from energy statism to free energy markets.

But there are more areas of pro-private pro-market exchange reform on the federal level. I offer four–perhaps readers can add more in comments.

Nine Policy Recommendations (Cato)

Congress should:

  • Open up public lands currently off limits to the oil and gas industry in the outer continental shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for exploration and drilling,
  • Repeal Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards along with all other energy conservation mandates,
  • Repeal subsidies for all energy industries including oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and renewable energies of all kinds,
  • Repeal fuel consumption mandates for ethanol and resist prospective consumption mandates for other renewable energies,
  • Eliminate all targeted public energy research and development programs and replace them with a generalized tax credit for private research and development undertakings,
  • Transfer the maintenance of the nuclear weapons stockpile from the Department of Energy to the Department of Defense and privatize the national laboratories,
  • Sell the oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and shut the program down,
  • Eliminate the Department of Energy and all its programs, and
  • Refuse appeals to impose new taxes and/or regulations on energy producers and manufacturers.

More Recommendations

I would add these priorities:

Further Information?

There are numerous other federal laws that impact energy non-specifically–that can wait until another day. But what other federal energy-specific laws should be considered for repeal?

And what would federal privatization mean for government revenue and debt reduction? Any estimates of asset values that might exist would be very interesting to know about.



(1) In 1998, pursuant to Congressional authority, the federal government (U.S. DOE) sold its share of the Elk Hills field in California to Occidental Petroleum Corporation for $3.65 billion–the largest privatization of Federal property in U.S. history.

In 2000/2001, the Department returned the undeveloped Naval Oil Shale Reserve #2 in Utah to the Northern Ute Indian Tribe in the largest transfer of federal property to Native Americans in the last century.

Most recently, the Department of Energy transferred two Naval Oil Shale Reserves–both in Colorado–to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management for commercial mineral leasing, primarily for natural gas production and future petroleum exploration.



  1. Energy and Environment News  

    […] Federal Energy Policy for America Robert Bradley, Jr., Master Resource, 15 June 2011 […]


  2. Jon Boone  

    *Repeal subsidies for all energy industries including oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and renewable energies of all kinds

    *Repeal fuel consumption mandates for ethanol and resist prospective consumption mandates for other renewable energies

    Although the issue of government intervention and subsidy is complex and nuanced, enacting these two measures alone would save ratepayers a bundle while reclaiming billions for the federal treasury. At the same time, it would be a boost for the food supply, lower food and electricity prices, less intrusive deleterious development across the land and water, and more sensible energy policy.


  3. Ray  

    The DOE was supposed to make us energy independent. They didn’t succeed and just turned into a WPA for bureaucrats. While you’re at it, also eliminate the EPA. They were founded on a lie and they lie continually.


  4. Mark Heslep  

    Regarding CATO’s number three: I’m likely in agreement. Two questions:
    1) Is there a definitive answer on exactly what the fossil subsidies are, their size, and over what period?
    2) Given a long term market distorting government subsidy for any industry, does CATO consider remedial action for a time warranted, perhaps to enable the recovery of other industries pushed aside by the original subsidy?

    Consider a counter factual for a moment: the US circa 1900 massively subsidizes horse based transportation, turning large swaths of the midwest into government subsidized horse ranches and horse carriage factories, while paving cities with the resulting manure. How many decades would the model-T remained more expensive than the subsidized nag? In such a case, should some action be taken to recover such an auto industry that the government forced aside?

    That is, is laissez faire the answer when the government finally leaves the table it rigged?


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