Energy Law’s Moment: Turning Points, A Growing Field, and the New Energy Law and Policy Book

Intro: James Coleman, Guest Blogger: Alexandra Klass

Energy law is at a renaissance moment. Nearly every day, judges and regulators across the continent are making decisions on energy policy and infrastructure that will determine the energy future of the United States for decades to come. Increased production of tight oil and shale gas from the fracking boom and bitumen from the Canadian oil sands have created a strong demand for new modes of oil and gas transport. This demand has been matched by pushback from environmental groups seeking new legal tools to challenge these projects and avoid locking in fossil fuel infrastructure.

Electricity production is at the same kind of turning point. U.S. reliance on coal-fired electricity is being challenged by forthcoming climate and environmental regulations in tandem with cheap gas and falling renewable prices. Thus, forthcoming legal decisions are subjecting both the electricity and oil and gas sectors to substantial uncertainty, and the results will determine the future of energy markets in the United States. (See, for example, this recent post on state renewable energy standards, this post on forthcoming climate regulations on coal plants, and this one on the Keystone XL pipeline review.)

At the same time, energy law is one of the few bright spots for law students in a difficult legal job market. The Dean of Brooklyn Law School, Nicholas Allard, recently noted that, in contrast to nearly every other legal field, there has been an “avalanche of legal work in energy.” Student and scholarly interest has followed suit.

As a result, I’m delighted to welcome Alexandra Klass of the University of Minnesota Law School to Energy Law Prof blog. Professor Klass regularly publishes some of the most exciting scholarship in this fast-moving area of law. (See, for example, her forthcoming piece on optimal regulation of oil and gas pipelines in an era of increasing production.)

For Alex’s first post, I’ve asked her to discuss the new textbook, Energy Law and Policy, that she is releasing with four other eminent energy scholars: Lincoln Davies (Utah), Hari Osofsky (Minnesota), Joseph Tomain (Cincinnati), and Elizabeth Wilson (Minnesota—Humphrey School of Public Affairs). She informs me that book will be released in print and electronic versions on September 2, 2014, and if energy law faculty would like to have access to electronic versions of the chapters before then for teaching in the fall 2014 semester, you can contact her or any of the other authors.


Our New Book: Energy Law and Policy (Davies, Klass, Osofsky, Tomain, Wilson)

Alexandra Klass

Energy is one of the foremost issues of our time. The energy sector is immense—accounting for $15 trillion of GDP and touching every part of the economy and every one of our lives. At the same time, the energy policy conversation is changing. Climate change, energy security, and environmental responsibility mean that the energy law of the future must address the ecological consequences of unconstrained fossil fuel consumption.  However, much of the public dialogue about these important transitions is highly politicized, and fails to situate individual issues within the energy system as a whole.

In Energy Law and Policy, we break away from the traditional approach of looking at energy resources one at a time to try to provide that more holistic view.  The design of our book seeks to account for the complex, interrelated energy systems that buttress society, while addressing the grand energy challenges humanity faces today.

The book is organized into three parts that introduce students to the fundamental aspects of the energy sector, energy law, and the most pressing energy topics of the 21st century.

Part I presents an overview of energy resources and markets. It identifies the book’s primary themes: (1) the relationship between regulation, markets, and technological innovation; (2) the federalism issues that arise from the interaction of key regulatory actors; and (3) the transition to cleaner energy. This Part also introduces the major sources of energy and the evolving law governing their extraction.

In Part II, we discuss energy in terms of the electricity and transportation sectors that rely upon these energy resources. The U.S. energy profile can be roughly divided into oil for transportation and electricity for cooling, lighting and other uses. This Part introduces traditional regulation in both of these sectors, and the ways in which law and policy for transportation and electricity are now in transition.

Part III turns to the pressing energy challenges of the day. It presents case studies on the Smart Grid, the electrification of vehicles, the role of nuclear energy in a clean energy future, and new and expanding energy extraction technologies such as deepwater drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Energy Law and Policy thus seeks to provide a solid understanding of the current energy regulatory regime, and to equip students with materials to anticipate future challenges and opportunities.

The book contains cases, sample statutes and regulations, and pertinent excerpts from energy law and policy experts. These policy-oriented, often empirical materials offer the necessary building blocks for a public law course, particularly one that covers a rapidly transitioning field.

The book aims to provide an introduction to energy law and policy both for students who seek to practice in the field and for those interested in better understanding this fascinating, critical area of law. The book introduces the key jurisdictional actors that play differing roles in energy controversies and provides students with an understanding of the multi-jurisdictional approach to energy regulation pervasive in the United States.

Throughout, the book highlights the debate over whether and how society can transition to a clean energy future. Trillions of dollars of sunk costs, and current institutions bound by the multitude of laws that favor and support the dominant energy model, challenge any kind of energy law transition.

Our book seeks to orient students with the existing modes of energy regulation, while equipping them to address the challenges that will be faced by the energy lawyer of the future. We think it is critical for the next generation of energy lawyers to understand the energy system holistically and to think creatively about our options in this time of transition.


One comment

  1. […] I am very pleased to welcome guest-blogger Joe Tomain, who is Professor and Dean Emeritus at University of Cincinnati College of Law. Joe is also co-author, with regular guest-blogger Alexandra Klass and three other scholars, of a new energy law and policy text. […]

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