Chapter 11: Energy policy: a full circle?
Almost always and almost everywhere the energy industries are regulated by governments that attempt to steer those industries in directions they claim are conducive to the ‘public interest’. Since the end of the Second World War, most governments have had ‘energy policies’ most of the time. However, the balance between state regulation and voluntary action has varied over time. Governments have sometimes intervened extensively in energy markets and at other times they have partially withdrawn, leaving a greater role to market forces. Looking back over nearly 70 years, three sub-periods in energy policy can be identified. In the aftermath of the war, in the economies of the wartime participants, central planning of energy was in vogue for about 35 years. Then, in the last 20 years or so of the twentieth century, as liberal market economics staged a revival, energy planning became less fashionable and governments tended to give freer rein to market forces. That revival proved very short-lived and in the early years of the twenty-first century government energy planning began a comeback, as governments claimed that, without their intervention, the free operation of energy markets would have significant adverse effects on the natural environment and on energy security.
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