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Stabilizing and Reducing U.S. Energy Consumption: Legal and Policy Tools for Efficiency and Conservation

January 2007

Citation: 37 ELR 10003

Issue: 1

Author: John Dernbach

Editors' Summary: Rising global demand for energy, high energy prices, climate change, and the threat of terrorism all point to the need for greater energy efficiency and conservation in the United States. While technological innovation is plainly needed, our laws and institutional arrangements must also play an important role. The United States has scores of legal and policy tools from which to choose to improve energy efficiency and curb energy consumption. This Article, which grows out of a Spring 2006 seminar at the Widener University School of Law, evaluates a handful of these tools: transit-oriented development; fuel taxation; real-time pricing for electricity use; public benefit funds; improving the efficiency of existing residential and commercial buildings; and expanding the use of rail freight. Greater efficiency and conservation based on those and other tools may allow us to stabilize U.S. energy consumption and then reduce it. As challenging as that goal might be, there is considerable evidence to believe that it is achievable.

John Dernbach is a Professor at Widener University School of Law. From July 2003 to December 2005, he was on leave, serving as Director of the Policy Office at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The students participating in the seminar were Robert Altenburg, Thomas Corcoran, Norman Marden, Allison Rafferty, Christopher Reibsome, Edward Ruud, and David Sunday. Robert Altenburg also provided research assistance. Don Brown, Bry Danner, Will Delavan, Chuck Kutscher, Dan Lashof, Sonny Popowsky, and Bob Power provided helpful comments on a draft of the Article. Professor Dernbach is responsible for any errors. Please send comments or questions to jcdernbach@widener.edu.

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