Why the United States Does Not Have a Renewable Energy Policy

February 2013
ELR 10095
E. Donald Elliott

For good or ill, the United States seems more like a western European country every day, but the contrast could not be starker when it comes to renewable energy policy. Many countries in Europe get over one third—and some, over one-half—of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar. Europeans across the political spectrum support government policies to promote renewal energy, but government support for renewable energy is deeply controversial in the United States. In their first presidential debate, Mitt Romney famously attacked Barack Obama for “picking losers” by spending $90 billion to promote green energy. Why doesn’t the United States have a renewable energy policy like those in Europe? The answers lie deep in our political structure and political culture, as well as our natural endowment of huge resources of fossil energy, including shale gas and unconventional oil.

E. Donald Elliott is Professor (adj.) of Law, Yale Law School, and Senior of Counsel, Covington & Burling LLP.

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Why the United States Does Not Have a Renewable Energy Policy

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