Energy, United States Department of, executive department of the federal government responsible for coordinating national activities relating to the production, regulation, marketing, and conservation of energy. The department is also responsible for the federal nuclear weapons program and the high risk research and development of energy technology. In the wake of the energy crisis of the mid-1970s, when the price of oil rapidly increased, concerns that the United States had no energy policy led President Carter to create (1977) the cabinet-level department. Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger was named the first secretary. The department consolidated the functions previously handled by the Federal Energy Administration, the Energy Research and Development Administration, and the Federal Power Commission, as well as certain energy-related tasks previously managed by other federal agencies. The Dept. of Energy emphasized energy conservation by encouraging voluntary energy curbs and through coordinated federal policy. Although Ronald Reagan criticized the department during his 1980 election campaign as an example of government wastefulness and unwarranted governmental control of private enterprise, he did not abolish the department once in office. The department's chief subdivisions direct programs in energy, environmental quality, national security, and science. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is an independent organization within the department.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.