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Energy Policy Under the Clinton Administration


Energy Policy Under the Clinton Administration

Often, we are not aware of the full impacts of a presidential administration’s policies until years later. Now that it’s been nearly twenty years since President William J. (“Bill”) Clinton, the impacts of his policies are now clear.

While no administration boasts a perfect record, the Clinton Administration’s (1993-2001) energy policy helped to transform the United States. Specifically, it made it possible for us to maintain a robust economy while maintaining a cleaner and healthier environment.

President Clinton’s energy policies showed us that it is possible to enact clean energy policies without sacrificing America’s leading role in the global market.

Energy Policy Under President Clinton


The Administration’s energy policy was influenced by concerns about energy consumption and production impacts. These issues raised concerns about America’s reliance on coal and oil. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions first became a topic of national concern under the Clinton administration.

As a result, President Clinton advocated a shift from traditional energy sources to so-called “clean energy.” This includes alternative-fuel vehicles, less costly natural gas, electric fuel cell and hybrid vehicles, as well as renewable resources.

America has seen a fast-growing demand for more energy resources. The Clinton Administration believed the proactive change towards a clean energy economy would not just be good for the environment, it would be good for the economy as well.

Thus, President Clinton’s energy policy was designed to lead the United States to greater economic growth and development.

This included establishing a strong presence in the global market for pollution control equipment and services. In turn, this would also result in lower production costs in the United States and greater competition with global manufacturers, including Germany and Japan.

Paving New Pathways Towards Clean Energy

The Clinton Administration’s energy indicatives were unique, and they led to the establishment of game-changing laws and policies. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (“EPA92”) was the only energy legislation enacted during the 1990’s.

EPA92 became the foundation for subsequent energy policy efforts, and has made lasting impacts on America’s energy usage. EPA92’s primary goal was to restructure the electricity industry. The law achieved this by promoting wholesale and retail competition in a market that was formerly dominated by monopolies.

However, perhaps President Clinton’s most notable achievement in energy policy was to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement reached in 1997. Its main goal was to help industrialized nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. To do this, the Protocol set targets for reducing emissions and established flexible, market-based mechanisms to achieve the targets cost-effectively.

That way, countries could reduce air emissions without unnecessary disruption in their energy markets.

While EPA92 and the Kyoto Protocol were among President Clinton’s major achievements, the Clinton Administration successfully started several energy initiatives. For example, the Clinton White House established new energy efficiency standards for home appliances, which saved consumers money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Administration also directed federal agencies to reduce energy use in buildings 35% by 2010. President Clinton also pushed for increased production of domestic natural gas, which created new jobs in the industry.

All in all, this led to the creation of 50,000 to 70,000 new jobs for every trillion cubic feet of natural gas produced domestically.

Many of President Clinton’s energy policies were aimed at building the clean energy economy, but some focused on environmental protection. For example, in 1995, the Clinton Administration announced an agreement with key oil companies preventing drilling in sensitive coastal areas of Florida and Alaska.

In 1997, President Clinton also approved protective air quality standards to fight pollution of the ozone layer, adopted strong standards on soot and smog, and gave the Environmental Protection Agency more flexibility to oversee the actuality of these standards.

Success Despite Opposition

Despite their benefits, EPA92 and several other clean energy initiatives saw a lot of push back from the Republican dominated Congress. This made it difficult for new standards to be met, and it quashed other initiatives altogether. For example, another well-known initiative brought forth during the Clinton Administration was a BTU (British Thermal Unit) tax.

The policy imposed a tax on all fuel sources based on the quantity of heat needed to raise the temperature 1 degree Fahrenheit of a pound of water.

The tax excluded renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal energy. However, Congress strongly opposed the BTU tax legislation and it was never enacted. Rather, Congress implemented policy efforts that encouraged just the opposite, like opening additional federal lands and deep water for oil and gas drilling.

However, the Clinton Administration’s clean energy policies were very successful even despite these challenges.

For example, under the Clinton Administration’s clean energy policies, biofuel saw a sudden increase in popularity.

Biofuels, also known as conventional biofuels, are made from food products like sugar, starch, and vegetable oil, or from feedstock or algae. Such fuels have since played a part in promoting energy independence, rural development, and the reduction of United States carbon emissions.

All in all, the Clinton Administration’s energy initiatives changed the direction of energy policy in America in a positive way.

The clean energy and pollution reduction initiatives established under President Clinton helped both the economy and the environment. This helped build momentum for new innovative ideas in the future while creating a cleaner and more prosperous future for us all.

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