The Public Interest

The American Energy Debate

Robert S. Pindyck

Spring 1980

THERE have been few domestic policy debates in the United States as divisive and as seemingly unresolvable as the one over energy policy. This debate began in earnest even before the OPEC oil price increase of 1973-74, focusing initially on the regulation of natural-gas wellhead prices as spot shortages of gas began occurring in 1971 and 1972. Then, as now, the argument was a simple one: Do we let the domestic price of energy rise so that our growing dependence on imported oil can be stemmed and spot shortages of fuels can be averted, or do we keep the price of energy low and try to reduce or limit imports with a patchwork of programs to subsidize synthetic fuels, promote conservation through tax incentives and exhortation, and, when shortages do occur, ration supplies?

Download a PDF of the full article.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.