The Department of Energy (DOE) is a cabinet-level agency that has both important energy- and national security-related missions.
DOE’s roots go all the way back to World War II and the Manhattan Project, the top-secret program that launched America’s effort to develop and stockpile nuclear weapons.
DOE’s predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission, managed the country’s nuclear weapons complex until the 1970s, when the Energy Department assumed that responsibility upon its creation.
Today, Energy officials still oversee the laboratories that were once primarily responsible for creating weapons of mass destruction, along with implementing policies geared toward strengthening the United States’ sources of energy.
The DOE carries out policies ranging from nuclear power to fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.
Under the current administration of President Barack Obama, U. energy policy has focused primarily on “clean energy” initiatives and technologies, a departure from the policies of former President George W.
Bush, whose DOE provided considerable support to nuclear power and oil development, which provoked criticism from environmentalists and those on the left.
The federal government’s earliest agencies that delved into energy-related policy were those that focused on petroleum and coal.
The Office of Fossil Energy traces its roots back to the early 20th Century when oil was just beginning to become a much sought after fuel source for the budding automotive industry and for trans-oceanic shipping.
But it was during World War II when a powerful new energy source was developed for military purposes that the U. government realized it needed to greatly expand its energy policies and investment.
In 1942, federal military officials established the Manhattan Project to build the world’s first atomic bombs, which were dropped on Japan in 1945.
Following the war, Congress debated whether atomic power should be controlled by civilians or the military, eventually deciding on the former by passing the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 (pdf).