From attempts to bail out coal and nuclear to a Green New Deal, 2018 was an interesting year for energy policy. With a newly divided Congress taking office in January, it seems likely that disagreements regarding the future of the energy industry will continue in 2019, though there may be areas with potential for bipartisanship. Outside of the federal government, it can be expected that 2019 will continue the trend of many state and local governments, as well as private organizations, being active in shaping the direction of our energy sector.
A major trend of 2018, which will continue into the new year, is discussion around carbon pricing legislation. In December, Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Coons introduced companion legislation to the carbon tax bill introduced by a group of bipartisan representatives in the House in late November. It is unclear if either bill will get serious consideration with the current Congress coming to an end, but it does underscore the mounting interest in such legislation. Other issues that could receive attention in a divided Congress next year include energy infrastructure, nuclear energy, and transportation.
The new year will continue the administration’s efforts to expand opportunities for oil and gas drilling and to reduce regulatory burden. In 2017, the administration issued Executive Order 13795, the first step in enacting the “American First Offshore Energy Strategy.” The plan would open up to 90% of the outer continental shelf for resource exploration and development and potentially result in $615 billion in GDP growth. 2018 saw the introduction and refinement of the draft plan with a final proposal expected in January 2019.
If 2018 is any indication, substantial changes within the energy sector can be expected for 2019 without any major federal action. With California and New York announcing goals to become carbon-free and many other states raising their clean energy targets, states had a significant impact on energy policy in 2018 with others expected to follow their lead in the new year. 2018 also saw many private corporations, including utilities companies, make public commitments to become carbon-free or decrease their carbon emissions substantially. 2019 is likely to continue these trends within the industry and at the state level while also seeing increased discussion federally around how to best manage the ongoing energy transition and what it means for policy, industry, and consumers.