Energy-related incidents and issues – the BP-Macondo oil spill, the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, the Solyndra bankruptcy, high gasoline prices, America’s
growing capacity to develop oil and natural gas resources, etc. – have grabbed headlines in recent years, and have driven renewed focus on energy policy and the public discourse
surrounding it. This is highlighted by the fact that, in April 2012, 81% of the advertisements that aired in opposition to President Obama’s reelection focused on energy, according to
Kantar Media research.
Recent polls suggest that this heightened focus may be impacting the public’s perception of energy policy and what its priorities should be. For example, a 2010 Gallup poll noted that the public, when asked to choose between the two,
expressed a preference for energy production over environmental protection for the first time in the poll’s history. Subsequent Gallup polls indicate this preference remains, though the degree of preference is shifting.
However, are energy production and environmental protection necessarily at odds? Can policymakers pursue multiple goals
While polls like this capture the public mood well, they do little to inform policymaking as they suggest unavoidable competition between energy policy goals (i.e. the U.S. can either produce energy or protect the environment, but not both). However, competition between goals is not always the case.
In late 2011, Sandia National Laboratories and OurEnergyPolicy.org surveyed 884 energy professionals on their energy policy preferences. Rather than asking respondents to identify their favorite policy goal, this survey
asked respondents to allocate 100 points across three separate, commonly accepted energy policy goals: the Environment, Economics, and Energy Supply Security. The
survey’s results suggest areas for improvement in the national energy policy discourse, and a framework for thinking about energy policy that may help policymakers and advocates
to devise new approaches and to better communicate their views.