Crisis and Opportunity: American Energy
Policy during the Bush Years and Beyond
Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…. After they’ve
tried everything else.
Energy security is one of the most important yet overlooked matters of state that the U.S. government has to contend with. Americans found out during the 1970s that oil supply disruptions had the ability to bring the U.S. economy to its knees, yet America was unable to fully come to grips with its vulnerability to oil shocks by changing the amount and nature of its energy use. When President Bush took the oath of office, American oil consumption had risen above 16 million barrels of oil per day, 7 million of which were imported.
Mindful of the importance of increasing American energy security and improving the environment, President Bush charged his energy secretary, James Watkins, with the task of formulating an energy policy to accomplish these two objectives. For eighteen months Watkins and his staff at the Department of Energy embarked on an effort to develop a national energy strategy that would reduce American oil consumption and lessen American dependence on insecure foreign oil supplies.
In October 1992, nearly three and a half years after Watkins had begun his quest, President Bush signed a bill into law that would make some policy improvements but would not prevent the United States from consuming more oil in the future while producing less, thus allowing America’s energy security problems to persist.
This chapter’s main focus will be on the Bush administration’s efforts to develop and enact a national energy strategy. It will try to determine which obstacles