|Hauling crude oil to a refinery in Casper, Wyoming, c. 1900|
(Casper College Western History Center)
To hear some of the debate, you’d think that the Obama Administration breached some longstanding barrier that left energy policy to the states and the market. If there ever was such a barrier, it disappeared over a century ago, with the onset of World War I. Ever since then, the federal government has been actively shaping energy production, distribution, and sale. We wouldn’t have the oil industry or the coal industry we have today if the Feds hadn’t been involved. That’s not to mention all the money the Feds poured into building dams for hydroelectric power. Putting aside hydro, efforts to move the nation away from reliance solely on fossil fuels dates back sixty years when Congress decided to promote the use of nuclear power.
Simply listing federal statutes is enough to show how pervasively the Feds have been involved. Here is a timeline of major federal actions with a sentence about what each one did. I’ve included only a couple of the Supreme Court decisions that have helped shape the law, and none of the major administrative actions, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) deregulation of wholesale electricity prices and revamping of power grid management. I’m also excluding environmental regulations, which obviously have had a substantial impact on the energy sector. Nevertheless, the number and scope of federal interventions is overwhelming:
1906. Congress passes the Hepburn Act, which limited ownership of oil pipelines by oil producers.The rest is at Legal Planet.