Environmental Review | VOL. 11
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Energy and Environment in the United States: The Era of Fossil Fuels

Publication Date Jan 1, 1987

Abstract

The exploitation of energy sources has been an essential ingredient to the process of economic growth in the United States. But the nation's enviable abundance of natural resources has stalled serious consideration of the environmental consequences of the use and development of energy. Endowed with plentiful domestic fuels and with access to foreign sources, its citizens have expected their energy supplies to last forever. By ignoring the environmental costs of extracting and processing energy over the years, the market price has remained artificially low. But in the long run, abundance had a counterpart in the squandering of resources and their inefficient use. The United States has been one of the most wasteful societies precisely because it also was one of the most affluent. An unabashed faith in abundance and the belief that energy was a commodity to meet the ends of economic growth guided national energy policy, especially before the turn of the century. That "pro-exploitation" perspective also was grounded in the notion that energy development was essentially a private enterprise. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the emerging conservation movement began to modify the "pro-exploitation" view, and the "wise use" of resources came to be perceived as necessary for sustained economic growth. Environmental protection received little attention, however, and government regulatory policies tended to be "industry-specific" rather than broad in scope. While "wise use" programs attempted to curb the rampant squandering of...

Concepts
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Future Role Of Government
Era Of Fossil Fuels
Formulation Of Energy Policy
Squandering Of Resources
Late Nineteenth Century
United States
Mid-twentieth Century
Inefficient Use
Energy Development
Environmental Goals

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