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U.S. Department of Energy

U.S. Department of Energy

For most of its history, the United States has felt little concern for its energy needs. The country has had huge reserves of coal , petroleum , and natural gas . In addition, the United States had always been able to buy all the additional fossil fuels it needed from other nations. As late as 1970, automotive and home heating fuels sold for about $0.20$0.30 per gal ($0.05$0.08 per l).

That situation changed dramatically in 1973 when members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) placed an embargo on the oil it shipped to nations around the world, including the United States. It took only a few months for the United States and other oil-dependent countries to realize that it was time to rethink their national energy strategies. The late 1970s saw, therefore, a flurry of activity by both the legislative and executive arms of government to formulate a new energy policy for the United States.

Out of that upheaval came a number of new laws and executive orders including the Energy Reorganization Act of 1973, the Federal Non-Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 1974, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1976, the Energy Conservation and Production Act of 1976, the National Energy Act of 1978, and President Jimmy Carter's National Energy Plan of 1977.

One of the major features of both legislative and executive actions was the creation of a new Department of Energy (DOE). DOE was established to provide a central authority to develop and oversee national energy policy and research and development of energy technologies. The new department replaced or absorbed a number of other agencies previously responsible for one or another aspect of energy policy, including primarily the Federal Energy Administrations and the Energy Research and Development Administration . Other agencies transferred to DOE included the Federal Power Commission , the five power administrations responsible for production, marketing and transmission of electrical power (Bonnevile, Southeastern, Alaska, Southwestern, and Western Area Power Administrations), and agencies with a variety of other functions previously housed in the Departments of the Interior, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, and the Navy.

DOE's mission is to provide a framework for a comprehensive and balanced national energy plan by coordinating and administering a variety of Federal energy functions. Among the Department's specific responsibilities are research and development of long-term, high-risk energy technologies, the marketing of power produced at Federal facilities, promotion of energy conservation, administration of energy regulatory programs, and collection and analysis of data on energy production and use. In addition, the department has primary responsibility for the nation's nuclear weapons program.

DOE is divided into a number of offices, agencies, and other divisions with specific tasks. For example, the Office of Energy Research manages the Department's programs in basic energy sciences, high energy physics, and nuclear fusion energy research. It also funds university research in mathematical and computational sciences and other energy-related research. Another division, the Energy Information Administration, is responsible for collecting, processing, and publishing data on energy reserves, production, demand, consumption, distribution, and technology.

[David E. Newton ]



The United States Government Manual, 1992/93. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992.


U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, D.C. USA 20585 Fax: (202) 586-4403, Toll Free: (800) dial-DOE, , <>

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