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PowerPedia:United States

Lasted edited by Andrew Munsey, updated on June 15, 2016 at 2:04 am.

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The United States of America, also referred to in short form as the United States, the USA, or simply the US, and colloquially as America, is a country in North America that extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, and shares land borders with Canada and Mexico. The United States is a federal constitutional republic, with its capital in Washington, D.C.

Energy policy of the United States and energy use is not a simple matter. It has to do with lifestyle, design of cities, zoning, building codes, market forces, a fickle public, and entrenched business interests. Business leaders whose industry depends on the sale of fossil fuels, will not stand by and watch the phase out of their lucrative industry. Indeed, they still demand tax breaks and the waiving of oil drilling royalties. Large energy companies have funded dubious research institutes to issue junk science reports to bolster investment in their industry.

Industry and economy

The economic history of the United States is a story of economic growth that began with marginally successful colonial economies and progressed to the largest industrial economy in the world in the 20th and early 21st century. One of the big problems of renewable energy in the United States was economics. With state invested hydrodams, power grid electricity was 10 cents a kilowatt. It was cheap. The same could be said when gasoline was a dollar a gallon. Funding alternatives like wind or solar, when solar panels cost $1000 per kilowatt was nonsensical. Today, however, the cost of solar panels and windmills have come down, and the nation's dams and electric grid are aging and need re-investing in. The deregulation of the electricity markets, New York and California blackouts, and the Enron debacle prove that there are problems. And there is an underlying theme in that the economy of America is an oil economy. It is no wonder that four of the top five largest companies in America (Fortune 500), are oil are auto companies. Shifting the focus of the national economy, is a large undertaking. So now with tax breaks for small, de-centralized micro generation, solar panels on roofs, Western deserts, the Great Plains micro windmills, the conversion of the energy supply is feasible.

The economic system of the United States can be described as a capitalist mixed economy, in which corporations, other private firms, and individuals make most microeconomic decisions, and governments prefer to take a smaller role in the domestic economy, although the combined role of all levels of government is relatively large, at 36% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Most business in the U.S. are not corporations and do not have a payroll but are unincorporated sole proprietorships. The U.S. has a smaller social safety net than that of other developed countries, and regulation of businesses is slightly less than the average of developed countries. The United States' median household income was $46,326 with personal median income for those aged 25 to 64 being $32,611 in 2006. The unemployment rate as of Dec 2006 was 4.5%.

Economic activity varies greatly across the country. For example, New York City is the center of the American financial, publishing, broadcasting, and advertising industries, while Los Angeles is the most important center for film and television production. The San Francisco Bay Area is a major center for technology. The Midwest is known for its reliance on manufacturing and heavy industry, with Detroit serving as the historic center of the American automotive industry, and Chicago serving as the business and financial capital of the region. The Southeast is a major area for agriculture, tourism, and the lumber industry, and, because of wages and costs below the national average, it continues to attract manufacturing.

The largest sector in the United States economy is services, which employs roughly three quarters of the work force. The economy is fueled by an abundance in natural resources such as coal, petroleum, and precious metals. However, the country depends on foreign countries for much of its energy. In agriculture, the U.S. is a top producer of corn, soy beans, rice, and wheat, with the Great Plains labeled as the "breadbasket of the world" for its tremendous agricultural output and productivity. The U.S. has a large tourist industry, ranking third in the world, and is also a major exporter in goods such as airplanes, steel, weapons, and electronics. Canada accounts for 19% (more than any other nation) of the United States' foreign trade, followed by China, Mexico, and Japan.

The per capita income of the United States is among the highest in the world. While income is higher than in western Europe, in 1990 it was distributed less equally. Since 1975, the U.S. has a "two-tier" labor market in which virtually all the real income gains have gone to the top 20% of households, with most of those gains accruing to the very highest earners within that category. This polarization is the result of a relatively high level of economic freedom.

The social mobility of U.S. residents relative to that of other countries is the subject of much debate. Some analysts have found that social mobility in the United States is low relative to other OECD states, specifically compared to Western Europe, Scandinavia and Canada. Low social mobility may stem in part from the U.S. educational system. Public education in the United States is funded mainly by local property taxes supplemented by state revenues. This frequently results in a wide difference in funding between poor districts or poor states and more affluent jurisdictions. Some analysts argue that relative social mobility in the U.S. peaked in the 1960s and declined rapidly beginning in the 1980s. Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has also suggested that the growing income inequality and low class mobility of the U.S. economy may eventually threaten the entire system in the near future.


The United States is an influential country in scientific and technological research and the production of innovative technological products. The bulk of Research and Development funding (69%) comes from the private sector, rather than from taxes. During World War II, the U.S. led the allied program to develop the atomic bomb, ushering in the atomic age. Beginning early the Cold War, the U.S. achieved successes in space science and technology, leading to a space race which led to rapid advances in rocketry, weaponry, material science, computers, and many other areas. This technological progress was epitomized by the first visit of a man to the moon, when Neil Armstrong stepped off of Apollo 11 in July 1969. The U.S. was also the most instrumental nation in the development of the Internet, developing its predecessor, Arpanet. U.S. businesses control most of its infrastructure.

In the sciences, Americans have a large share of Nobel Prizes, especially in the fields of physiology and medicine. The National Institutes of Health, a focal point for biomedical research in the United States, as well as the privately-funded Celera Genomics have contributed to the completion of the Human Genome Project. The main governmental organization for aviation and space research is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Major corporations, such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, also play an important role.


Education in the United States is a combination of public and private entities. Public education is the responsibity of state and local governments, rather than the federal government. The Department of Education of the federal government, however, exerts some influence through its ability to control funding. Students are generally obliged to attend school starting with kindergarten, and ending with the 12th grade, which is normally completed at age 18, but many states may allow students to drop out as early as age 16. Besides public schools, parents may also choose to educate their own children at home or to send their children to parochial or private schools. After high school, students may choose to attend universities, either public or private. Public universities receive funding from the federal and state governments, as well as from other sources, but most students still have to pay student loans after graduation. Tuition at private universities is generally much higher than at public universities.

There are many competitive institutions of higher education in the United States, both private and public. The United States has 168 universities in the world's top 500, 17 of which are in the top 20. There are also many smaller universities and liberal arts colleges, and local community colleges of varying quality across the country with open admission policies.

The United States ranks 24th out of 29 surveyed countries in the reading and science literacy as well as mathematical abilities of its high school students when compared with other developed nations. The United States also has a low literacy rate compared to other developed countries, with a reading literacy rate at 86 - 98% of the population over age 15. As for educational attainment, 27.2% of the population aged 25 and above have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, and 84.6% have graduated high school.

Department of Energy

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government responsible for energy policy and nuclear safety. Its purview includes the nation's nuclear weapons program, nuclear reactor production for the United States Navy, energy conservation, energy-related research, radioactive waste disposal, and domestic energy production. DOE also sponsors more basic and applied scientific research than any other US federal agency, most of this is funded through its system of United States Department of Energy National Laboratories.


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