This chapter details the course of environmental and energy policy in the United States, particularly during the last few decades, when environmental policy became a mainstream policy concern. It begins with a history of environmental policy, largely beginning in the 1960s, and details the use of policy tools during this era, such as command and control approaches, direct regulation, and resource subsidies. It discusses the formation and role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the numerous federal laws put into place from the 1960s to the early 2000s. Among the features of these laws discussed in this chapter are collaborative decision making, the introduction of environmental impact statements (EIS), the fight over corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, the development of the Toxics Release Inventory, and the response to more recent issues—notably revolving around climate change—that include the United States’ relation to the Kyoto Protocol and its failed attempts to institute major climate change policies like cap-and-trade programs.
The chapter then moves into more contemporary environmental policy and details how the United States is addressing serious climate change and energy policy issues. With dire warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a domination over fossil fuel supply and prices by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), recent policy has had to change directions. Policies such as the carbon tax, ecosystem-based management, and user fees and multiple-use approaches to natural resources have become dominant, and new energy issues, such as the questions over hydraulic fracturing, are the environmental topics of the day. This chapter also details the shift in attention to sustainable development and the ethical implications of environmental policy, discussing such concepts as intergenerational equity and environmental stewardship.