According to a national survey of energy professionals jointly prepared by Sandia National Laboratories and, U.S. energy policy should simultaneously pursue energy supply security, economic outcomes, and minimized environmental impacts.

Contemporary political discourse often poses energy policymaking as a binary decision—the economy versus the environment, for example. Public opinion polls frequently support this conception, posing energy policymaking options as a zero-sum game between two opposed goals. However, does this tension in the discourse accurately reflect how policy is made? Do energy professionals — people working on energy issues daily — view U.S. energy policy in this way? How might professional insights inform energy policymaking and communications?

The findings of a national survey, The Goals of Energy Policy, show that the vast majority — more than 85% — of the 884 energy professionals surveyed prefer energy policy that pursues energy supply security, economic, and environmental goals simultaneously.

The survey asked experts to allocate 100 points, representing a 100% policymaking effort, across three commonly accepted energy policy goals: the Environment, Economics, and Energy Supply Security. The results are represented in this histogram.

The survey asked the following questions:

How should the U.S. allocate its efforts across the following three energy policy priorities?

  • Energy Supply Security: Assure a supply of energy for the U.S. that protects our national security interests.
  • Economics and Job Creation: Assure a cost for energy that sustains U.S. economic stability and growth.
  • Environment and Climate: Minimize the environmental impacts of energy supply, distribution and use.

Is another energy policy priority needed?

If yes, how would you allocate 100 points across the three original priorities and the fourth, self-selected priority?

Respondents included representatives of public utilities, oil and gas organizations, energy engineering groups and other energy professional and energy industry associations.

Key Findings: According to the survey’s results energy professionals rarely advocate for a single policy goal and instead generally prefer a more-or-less balanced approach to the three goals. On average, respondents allocated 36.9 points to Energy Supply Security, 32.3 points to Economics and Job Creation and 30.7 points to Environment and Climate.

Just 3.1% of respondents expressed a preference for an allocation of 100 toward any one goal: 1.6% did so for the Environment, 0.8% did so for Security, and 0.7% did so for Economics. At the same time, less than 15% of respondents completely devalued a given policy goal, or gave it a value of 0.

The survey’s results also suggest significant differences across age, gender, and geographical region, which informed the survey’s overall results. However, even within these differences, a preference for a mixed portfolio of energy policy goal pursuit was typical.

Download the report here.

How do the prevailing energy policy questions of the day stack up against Environmental, Economic, and Supply Security concerns? How well do popular policy mechanisms accomplish the goals of energy policy? When have policymakers missed opportunities to communicate policy implications along the three main goals of energy policy?