The Need for a Comprehensive Energy Policy

In Bereishit 1:26-30, God grants humanity dominion (וְיִרְדּוּ) over all other forms of planetary life and permission to subdue the earth (וְכִבְשֻׁהָ). Yet, in Bereishit 2:15, God places Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to till and to tend it (לְעָבְדָהּ וּלְשָׁמְרָהּ). How are we meant to mediate between these two paradigms? Specifically with regard to the use of natural resources for energy production, can Judaism provide guidance on how best to make the hard public policy choices between consumption and conservation? Though the issues are complex, our tradition routinely maintains that utilization of resources must be done in a way that is harmonious with the core Jewish values of sustainability and environmental stewardship. 

The Rabbinical Assembly has been at the forefront of environmental awareness and advocacy for decades. A common theme running through many of the RA’s resolutions and other actions is the need for a comprehensive national energy policy. Currently, energy policy in the United States is haphazard, inconsistent, and opaque. A comprehensive policy would seek to increase United States energy independence by developing environmentally clean, affordable energy sources and technologies that are alternatives to fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Additionally, such a policy would expand energy conservation through actions such as increasing vehicle fuel economy standards and retrofitting commercial buildings to be more energy efficient. 

The results of a holistic energy policy would:

1. Improve our national security by reducing our reliance on foreign oil, often from unstable regimes that are hostile to Israel and America’s best interests

2. Boost our economy through the creation of well-paying, long-lasting “green jobs”

3. Help rectify the devastating environmental damage—from global warming to international food crises—caused by our current over-consumption of coal and petroleum. 

As part of our commitment to cultivating a comprehensive energy security policy, the resources below highlight various Jewish texts that address the issue of energy consumption and suggest concrete actions to improve energy security in America.

Additionally, we have partnered with COEJL (Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life) in the Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign. This Campaign seeks to rally the Jewish Community around policies and practices that will promote energy conservation and investment in clean energy resources.

By Josh Ratner, RA Public Policy Fellow