US moving toward a future of energy ‘Made in America’

We have heard the calls to “drill, baby, drill.” We have watched the candidates campaign for an “all of the above” energy policy, which we support. But what we really need is a “Made in America” energy policy. Luckily, we are well on our way. 

Thanks in part to technological progress and policy interventions in the last decade, the United States finds itself in a stronger position to shape its own energy destiny — and with a greater sense of energy security — than it has enjoyed for some time. The time is now, while our supply is more secure, to address the remaining energy challenges we face, including affordability of energy for households and businesses; environmental challenges; the aging electric grid infrastructure; climate change; and insufficient research and development (R&D) investments.


For the past year and a half, the two of us, together with Gen. Jim Jones and William Reilly, a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, have led a diverse group of energy experts convened by the Bipartisan Policy Center to develop a package of recommendations that would make U.S. energy more secure, efficient and competitive. 

Our recommendations recognize that the most secure energy portfolio is a diverse one. We recommend a variety of policies to meet this goal, including expanding environmentally responsible production of domestic oil-and-gas resources, encouraging renewable energy production and removing barriers to the nuclear power industry. Our group opposes trade restrictions on energy and recommends expanding domestic oil-and-gas production in an environmentally responsible way. 

Improving energy productivity makes up a significant portion of our report, with recommendations for how best to build on our current energy efficiency gains across the entire economy. In particular, we recommend promotion of energy efficiency resources by electric utilities through state and local policies; designing environmental programs that encourage efficiency improvements; and continuing or enhancing a variety of cost-effective residential, commercial and industrial sector programs and standards at the local, state and federal levels. 

Accelerating the pace of innovation — from early research and development through demonstration and commercialization — should also be a central goal of U.S. energy policy. Federal investments must be more effective and efficient, and should promote private-sector innovation. To that end, we recommend a variety of measures, including increasing federal investments in basic and applied energy R&D as well as reauthorizing the America Competes Act; reviewing the Department of Energy’s technology programs to rebalance its energy R&D portfolio and guide budget priorities; and aligning energy innovation activities at the Department of Defense and other federal departments with broader national energy goals. 

Last, but certainly not least, we recommend reforms to the way that the executive branch develops, coordinates and implements national energy policy. To create more resilient, coordinated policy that can address short-term needs as well as longer-term goals, we recommend developing a high-level national energy strategy, through a new National Energy Security Council, and a conducting a companion Quadrennial Energy Review, similar to the Quadrennial Defense Review prepared by the Department of Defense. Without a well-coordinated strategic vision for U.S. energy policy, it will be difficult to maintain the promise of our current energy boom and tackle the pressing challenges that remain. 

Our specific recommendations should be viewed as a package — no single Energy Board member necessarily agrees with each individual point component in isolation. Taken together, however, we believe this set of recommendations provides the blueprint for a balanced and effective plan for enhancing the nation’s prosperity, energy security and sustainable environmental quality in the 21st century — in essence, a “Made in America” energy plan. 

Lott, a former Republican senator from Mississippi, and Dorgan, a former Democratic senator from North Dakota, are co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Energy Project. The recommendations can be found in the latest report, “America’s Energy Resurgence: Sustaining Success, Confronting Challenges.”