The Reality of American Energy

The Hidden Costs of Electricity Policy

by Ryan M. Yonk, Jordan Lofthouse, and Megan Hansen


While many consumers imagine electricity as a limitless energy source that flows from the wall socket, there are complex economic, political, and environmental factors in electricity generation.

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Cover image for The Reality of American Energy

July 2017


Pages 199
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/General

This book dispels common myths about electricity and electricity policy and reveals how government policies manipulate energy markets, create hidden costs, and may inflict a net harm on the American people and the environment.

Climate change, energy generation and use, and environmental degradation are among the most salient—and controversial—political issues today. Our country's energy future will be determined by the policymakers who enact laws that favor certain kinds of energy production while discouraging others as much as by the energy-production companies or the scientists working to reduce the environmental impact of all energy production.

The Reality of American Energy: The Hidden Costs of Electricity provides rare insights into the politics and economics surrounding electricity in the United States. It identifies the economic, physical, and environmental implications of distorting energy markets to limit the use of fossil fuels while increasing renewable energy production and explains how these unseen effects of favoring renewable energy may be counterproductive to the economic interests of American citizens and to the protection of the environment.

The first two chapters of the book introduce the subject of electricity policy in the United States and to enable readers to understand why policymakers do what they do. The remainder of the book examines the realities of the major electricity sources in the United States: coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydrodynamic, wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal. Each of these types of energy sources is analyzed in a dedicated chapter that explains how the electricity source works and identifies how politics and public policy shape the economic and environmental impacts associated with them.


  • Explores U.S. energy policy and explains the largely unknown impacts of policy decisions that are particularly relevant today given growing concerns surrounding climate change and increasing demand for action
  • Documents how idealistic desires to be "green" and to favor renewable energy over fossil fuels are rarely tempered by an understanding of the real-world tradeoffs that result from choosing one energy source over others
  • Identifies the direct impact of policies on electricity markets and especially on the affordability of electricity for U.S. consumers
  • Presents information that should be considered essential reading for policymakers charged with making informed, responsible decisions about our country's energy future as well as for anyone wanting to better understand why "green energy" may not always be the best option
Author Info

Ryan M. Yonk, PhD, is assistant research professor in the Department of Economics and Finance at Utah State University and vice president and executive director of Strata Policy, a thinktank focused on finding voluntary solutions to modern public policy issues. He is the author of numerous academic journal articles, policy reports, and books focused on the intersection of public policy, economics, and politics. His dissertation was on the political effects of quality of life.

Jordan Lofthouse, MSE, has published several op-eds in The Hill and The Salt Lake Tribune. He has worked on several policy reports relating to energy, the environment, and public lands. His current research areas include renewable energy, national park management, and federal environmental laws.

Megan Hansen, MSE, has published op-eds in USA Today, Newsweek, and The Salt Lake Tribune. She has worked on numerous policy reports on energy and environmental issues as a policy analyst at Strata Policy. Her research areas include electricity markets, small hydropower regulation, and the Endangered Species Act.



"Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals."Choice

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