Energy Policy

ACS Position Statement

Energy production and use is one of the most critical and complex policy issues of our time, with significant implications for our environment, economy, and national security. ACS acknowledges that no current energy technology is simultaneously clean, affordable, and secure, and believes the following three core recommendations should drive energy policy and use in the United States:

  • Increasing energy efficiency should be one of the highest priorities of our energy policy: Significant potential efficiency gains remain in the transportation, industrial, commercial, and residential sectors. U.S. policies should consistently prioritize increased efficiency in these sectors, both through higher efficiency standards and financial incentives to develop and use more efficient products.
  • The full lifecycle costs of all energy sources should be included in their market prices: Policies such as a price on carbon emissions could help level the playing field between higher-cost alternative energy sources that have less environmental impact and low-cost conventional energy resources that have significant greenhouse gas emission and/or other environmental impacts. These policies must go beyond carbon emissions, and also consider impacts current or potential energy resources may have on human health, water quality, water quantity, agriculture, air quality, and other environmental factors. Laws and regulations should be enacted that minimize and mitigate the negative environmental, health, and social consequences of energy development.
  • Energy policy incentives and research funding should be robust and sustained:
    Funding should emphasize all stages of the energy production lifecycle, from fundamental research and development to deployment as well as end-of-life considerations. Long-term orientation is critical for both funding and incentives, as short-term efforts can present significant uncertainty for researchers, industry, and consumers, potentially negating the positive impact of those efforts. Government funding for research is necessary to better understand the true costs of energy resources—such as land-use, water, and greenhouse gas emission impacts.

More specific discussion and recommendations are included in the following sections.

Conservation & Efficiency

Improving energy efficiency and conservation are the easiest, least expensive, and most practical ways to make positive impacts on fuel consumption and energy use, particularly in the short term.

  • The federal government should continue its leadership in energy efficiency, including through enacting improved energy efficiency standards.
  • Policy incentives and regulations must be predictable and ongoing to encourage efficiency and conservation at the residential and commercial level; the ACS recommends voluntary standards and assessment systems be continued and expanded.
  • The federal government should continue to drive improvements in transportation efficiency.
  • ACS encourages integrated research aimed toward a sustainable food-energy-water system, developing technologies to foster safe, secure, efficient, and innovative use of resources.

Conventional Energy Resources

ACS recognizes the current and future importance of conventional energy resources (oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear) to the United States, but believes that their full environmental, economic, and security costs must be factored in to their market prices and national energy decision-making.

  • Next-generation technologies and processes should be developed to reduce the negative impacts of conventional energy resources, such as best management practices for oil, natural gas, and coal extraction, carbon sequestration for coal-fired power plants, and technologies for next-generation nuclear reactors.
  • While ACS encourages the enhanced use of natural gas as a lower-carbon alternative to coal and petroleum, it is critical to minimize methane leaks during production, transport, and delivery in order to realize greenhouse gas emission benefits.
  • It is also important to remember that petrochemicals are an important feedstock for the chemical industry and a major component of U.S. manufacturing.

Renewable Energy Resources

According to the Energy Information Agency, renewable energy resources are “naturally replenishing, but flow-limited;” “virtually inexhaustible in duration, but limited in the amount of energy that is available per unit of time;” and include “biomass, hydro, geothermal, solar, wind, ocean thermal, wave action, and tidal action." ACS believes America’s long-term energy future is dependent on vigorous and sustainable development of these resources.

  • The government should make coordinated long-term investments in transformative, sustainable energy technologies and research at all stages of the process, including fundamental research, systems design and analysis, demonstration, and commercialization. Each stage requires sustained support from policymakers if the United States is to transform our energy systems.
  • Federal government agencies should make robust investments in the procurement of energy from renewable energy resources and expand research on more sustainable biofuels beyond corn or other food-based ethanol.
  • The government should enact consistent, long-term policies to increase the competitiveness of renewable and sustainable technologies and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Storage & Distribution

Because renewable energy resources cannot always be produced on demand, continued development of advanced electrical energy storage is essential to ensure that these resources are utilized to their full potential. Energy storage also increases reliability of electricity during peak usage periods and helps enable domestic energy security. Effective utilization of energy storage systems will require modernization of the electric grid, providing flexibility and resiliency to electric power distribution, while protecting the system from cyber threats.

ACS encourages

  • Development of policies to support the advancement of energy storage technologies.
  • Efforts to decrease cost of energy storage through research and development, including critical and rare earth element alternatives and recycling, as well as broader advanced materials research.
  • Government and private sector programs aimed at grid modernization and infrastructure enhancements to empower customers with the ability to manage and reduce their electricity costs.
  • Government efforts to ensure an adequate infrastructure, including refueling and recharging stations and systems for battery recycling or disposal if natural gas and electric powertrains are to play significant roles in our transportation system.
  • Programs that advance the development of physical security and cybersecurity relating to energy production, storage, and distribution systems.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) Board of Directors Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations adopted this statement on behalf of the Society at the recommendation of the Committees on Environmental Improvement, Chemistry and Public Affairs, Corporation Associates, and Science.

Position in Brief

  • Endorses an energy policy that prioritizes energy efficiency.
  • Supports including the full lifecycle costs of energy sources in their market prices, including the impacts on human health and the environment.
  • Encourages long-term orientation for both funding and incentives.