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Is American Energy Politics Ideological?

When we think of energy issues, we generally conjure up ideas of conflicts between producers and consumers. These translate into visions of grand ideological conflicts between the left and the right. Wildavsky and Tennenbaum (1981) speak of battles between "preservationists" and "industrialists." Kalt (1981) argues that "[tihe domestic energy 'crisis' is, far more than anything else, a quarrel over income distribution."Ideological straight fights are marked by a single dimension of conflict. In particular, ideological politics, as opposed to religious or ethnic cleavages, suggests a battle between left and right--or, producers and consumers in the case of energy battles. When there are only two contestants, one is sure to win if the group decision is made by majority rule. Even in the United States Congress, where complex rules often frustrate coherent policy formation, strongly-held positions can prevail over obstructionists if they are determined enough. Yet, during the 1970s many attempts to form a "national energy policy" failed. In the 1980s Congress again stumbled in making natural gas policy as it defeated both decontrol and recontrol proposals.

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Energy Specializations: Energy and the Economy – Energy as a Productive Input; Energy and the Economy –Economic Growth and Energy Demand; Energy and the Economy – Resource Endowments and Economic Performance; Energy and the Economy – Energy Shocks and Business Cycles

JEL Codes:
O13 - Economic Development: Agriculture; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Other Primary Products
Q34 - Natural Resources and Domestic and International Conflicts
F44 - International Business Cycles

Keywords: Energy Policy, US, Politics, Ideology

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol10-No1-6

Published in Volume 10, Number 1 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.