Toward a Pragmatic American Energy Policy

Toward a Pragmatic American Energy Policy

It is high time for the White House, Congress, and Washington DC in general to recognize the practical energy necessities of the United States. Our new think tank can help with this.


Joe Biden, as featured on the White House’s website, has recognized that tackling the climate crisis also represents a unique opportunity; a place “where conscience and convenience cross paths, where dealing with this existential [environmental] threat to the planet and increasing our economic growth and prosperity are one and the same.” We are wholly in agreement.

That said, Mr. President? While doing the right thing, it is just as important to do the thing right… in energy policy, as in all things.


As it happens, there are ways to achieve both and more. Doing so requires pursuing an energy policy founded in pragmatism, rather than misguided beliefs or notions. To that end, we are announcing Washington DC’s newest think tank, Washington Power & Light: an institution not affiliated with, nor funded by, any industry or sector, that is dedicated to encouraging such an approach.

Pragmatism is the most powerful known way of achieving across-the-board progress. We urge the Congressional “Problem Solvers Caucus”—headed by Chairmen Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)—to add energy policy, now curiously absent, to its platform.

Deferring, per the logic behind Pascal’s Wager, to the president’s commitment to treating greenhouse gas emissions as an existential threat and fully sharing his enthusiasm for economic growth and equitable prosperity, how might we get the best of both worlds? Let’s not settle for trafficking in tradeoffs that result in the half-baked achievement of both important policy objectives!

As it happens, the federal government’s own U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), “the statistical and analytical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy,” publishes an annual report entitled Annual Energy Outlook (AEO). The agency and its findings are disclaimed as “independent of approval by any other officer of employee of the U.S. government,” and whose views “do not represent those of [the Department of Energy] or any other federal agencies.”

Yet the EIA is considered by many an authoritative source. Its Administrator’s Foreword, in the latest AEO, stipulates with refreshing candor that:

The U.S. energy system is rapidly changing. … Ideally, we would model these dynamics to produce precise numerical forecasts that demonstrate how energy prices, technology deployment, and emissions will shift over time. Unfortunately, such precise forecasts are not possible. The 30-year decision landscape we model is too complex and uncertain. Thus, our objective must be to identify robust insights rather than precise numbers—think ranges and trends, not predictions and point estimates. … Among the uncertainties we must confront, the timing, structure, and targets associated with yet-to-be-developed policy are the most uncertain. We only consider current laws and regulations across all modeled cases in this AEO. For some readers, this approach may be unsatisfying because policy rarely remains static for long periods. But this AEO should be considered part of an iterative policymaking process rather than apart from it; it gives decision-makers an opportunity to peer into a future without new policy. If the projected outcomes are undesirable from their viewpoint, they can effect change.

The agency provides a data-driven analysis, refreshingly free of what we call “hopium”—defined by as “irrational or unwarranted optimism.” Its analysis presents, in dry expository form, conclusions that fossil fuels will still dominate as our energy source both in 2030 and 2050, with renewables approximately doubling yet still dramatically below rival power sources.

Curiously, nuclear energy, among the most environmentally- (per a growing chorus of environmentalists) and prosperity- (per the consensus of economists) friendly is projected to decline. So much for the aspirational hopium-fueled goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Different energy sources are optimal based on geographical and other factors. Let’s be cognizant that, in the spirit of Bob Marley’s “One Love”, all humanity (and other living things) shares one atmosphere. And while we consider renewed reliance on nuclear power to be a constructive, likely imperative, contribution to cutting CO2 emissions while contributing to prosperity and security, we do not consider nuclear energy a panacea.

In  addition to environmental benefits, economic benefits, and energy security benefits, consider that America’s main rival, China, is permitting two huge coal-fired electricity plant per week, “six times as large as that in all of the rest of the world combined.” Geopolitics and worldly economics factor into the policy calculus.

The New York Times, notwithstanding its predominantly center-left worldview, represents the epitome of journalism. Its idealism is often tempered by pragmatism.

It is therefore notable when it provides column inches to the proposition that nuclear waste is misunderstood—fears of radiation from nuclear power plants wildly overblown—by the founder of the progressive Campaign for a Green Nuclear Deal. This promptly is followed by a pretty darn glowing review of maverick filmmaker Oliver Stone’s new documentary, Nuclear Now, advocating nuclear energy as the decisive remedy both for climate change and for “climate doomerism.”

Meanwhile, The National Interest recently provided, over the course of two weeks, opinion pieces unflinchingly making the case for nuclear energy as the answer to global and environmental economics woes and another as to why nuclear power is the only realistic way of scaling up supply to meet future energy demand.

Bottom line? We applaud energy policies that honor President Biden’s stated goals: the imperative for both a clean environment and equitable prosperity. To those two objectives we would add energy security, unquestionably another value held by the president and most Americans, both in the general public and makers of policy.

Progress certainly will entail making laws, regulations, and overall energy policy based on data and analysis, rather than faith-based utopian “hopium” or narrative-driven dystopian hysteria or despair. But how? Simply follow the clear implications of the analysis provided annually by the Energy Information Agency to nurture the growing transpartisan consensus that energy policies fostering both equitable prosperity and environmental integrity are complementary, not antagonistic, values.

Energy policy based on proven, field-tested, engineering to bring about win-win solutions will bring federal policy back into better alignment with the mission statement placed right to the fore of the Constitution: to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

Chairmen Fitzpatrick and Gottheimer? President Biden?

You’ve got the solution to a problem right in the palm of your hands. We encourage you and your colleagues to take a good look!

Jeff Garzik is an internationally respected futurist, entrepreneur, and software engineer, co-founder and CEO of Bloq. He is well recognized for his work on the original dev team of Bitcoin and for his extensive work with the Linux Foundation.

Ralph Benko worked in or with three White Houses, two executive branch agencies, and several Congresses, co-founded and chairs the 201,000-follower Capitalist League, is a multi-award-winning author and columnist.

The authors are the co-founders of Washington Power & Light, a new DC policy institute dedicated to pragmatic energy policy. Washington Power & Light, not affiliated with, nor funded by, any industry or sector, is dedicated to encouraging an energy policy based on pragmatism.

Image: Shutterstock.