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United States Department of Energy (DOE)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) is a federal cabinet agency that is tasked with overseeing the energy economy, energy policies and energy security of the United States. The agency also creates and enforces policies for nuclear power and security, fossil fuel and alternative energy sources, environmental cleanup, climate change response, and innovations to augment non-renewable resources.

Activated on October 1, 1977, the cabinet-level department grew out of an energy crisis in the 1970s and brought together defense responsibilities that included the design, construction, and testing of nuclear weapons with other energy-related programs managed by the Federal Government. The environmental clean up of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex is also a responsibility of the DOE's semi-autonomous agency: the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The DOE pursues innovation through research conducted through a number of U.S. universities with funding from the agency.  In 2016, the Department of Energy's budget was approximately $30 billion. 

The DOE has not been free of controversy. The agency expressed support for more green and renewable energy sources under the Obama administration, but a controversy arose with the appointment of MIT professor Ernest Moniz to Secretary of Energy, because of his ties to old energy industries. Moniz's support of the publicly unpopular fracking was seen as a conflict of interest and as a pollution threat to water and air and a cause of earthquakes. Further controversy came when the DOE declared Pennsylvanian fracking had not contaminated public water, despite the fact that their inside reports showed evidence to the contrary.

This was last updated in March 2017

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