Experts Call for Triple Bottom Line Approach to National Energy Policy

New survey results on national energy policy from the Dept. of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories and show that a large majority of U.S. energy professionals have a clear preference for a national energy policy that places equal weight on energy security, economics and the environment. If that isn’t a Triple Bottom Line focus, what is?

Offering more detailed, refined and nuanced insight into Americans’ views on energy policy, a vast majority of the 884 U.S. energy professionals responding to the survey indicated “a clear preference for policymaking that pursues Energy Supply Security, Economics, and the Environment simultaneously,” according to Sandia National’s, “The Goals of Energy Policy” report.

Energy policy and public perceptions
Looking at the actual results, survey respondents on average allocated 36% of the energy policy resources to the pursuit of energy security, 31% to the environment and 32% to economics.

Just 3.1% of respondents expressed a preference for allocating 100% of resources toward any one goal: 1.6% did so for the environment, 0.8% did so for energy security, and 0.7% did so for economics, according to the report’s executive summary.

Republicans have zoomed in on President Obama’s energy policy, criticizing the President’s focus on stimulating and fostering development of clean, renewable energy installations and advanced technology. “In April, 81% of the advertisements aired in opposition to President Obama’s reelection focused on energy,” according to research results from Kanter Media, the report authors note.

Republicans and their fossil fuel and nuclear industry backers have cherry-picked shortcomings and failures of Obama’s clean energy policy framework and initiatives, such as the Solyndra bankruptcy, while conveniently ignoring the much larger overall success, foresight and coherence of Obama’s administration’s evolving national clean energy policy framework.

A look at the latest figures for clean and renewable energy in terms of investment dollars, installed capacity or job creation puts paid to the lie. Oh, and then there’s the millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases that are not being emitted into the atmosphere, and the land, water and environmental degradation that isn’t occurring by shifting away from fossil fuel and nuclear industrial development.

Ramping up their political campaigning in the run-up to the presidential election in November, Republicans have also conveniently ignored the string of fossil fuel and nuclear accidents and disasters that have occurred during the past two years. These include the BP-Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the nuclear power plant disaster at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi facility in Japan, as well as a series of smaller spills and accidents that have caused environmental, social and economic damage on smaller, more local and regional scales.

Need for a national energy policy that balances security, economics and environment
In the survey conducted as part of their “Goals of Energy Policy” research, Sandia National Labs and sought to improve on the somewhat crude formulation of energy policy questions posed. Rather than asking respondents to identify one favorite energy policy goal, they asked 884 US energy professionals “to allocate 100 points across three separate, commonly accepted energy policy goals: the Environment, Economics and Energy Supply Security,” the report authors explain.

The survey’s creators see a false dichotomy in polls such as those conducted by Gallup in that they create the false perception that different aspects of energy policy, production and consumption, can be separated and existly distinctly and in isolation from one another.

“While polls like this capture the public mood well, they do little to inform policymaking as they suggest unavoidable competition between energy policy goals (i.e. the U.S. can either produce energy or protect the environment, but not both),” they elaborated. “However, competition between goals is not always the case.”

In contrast, the Sandia research project team’s survey results “suggest areas for improvement in the national energy policy discourse, and a framework for thinking about energy policy that may help policymakers and advocates to devise new approaches and to better communicate their views.”

*Graphic credit: European Commission “Energy and Climate Change Policy” proposal 2007

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email:

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