Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve Circa 1920s

The Department of Energy is Created

President Carter signs the Department of Energy Organization Act. America would experience more energy shocks, however, in the next several years. In 1977, with the Nation facing its most severe winter in decades, natural gas shortages caused thousands of factory and school closings and threatened cutoffs to residential customers. More unrest was also taking place in the Middle East, now the world's dominant supplier of crude oil. Islamic fundamentalism was on the rise in Iran and elsewhere, and within two years, the Shah of Iran, one of the world's most prolific exporters of crude oil, would be overthrown.

The rapidly escalating global energy issues convinced the U.S. Government that a sharper focus should be applied to federal energy programs. On August 4, 1977, President Carter signed the Department of Energy Organization Act, consolidating more than 30 separate energy functions carried out by various government agencies, including ERDA. On October 1, 1977, the U.S. Department of Energy activated.

In the original Energy Department organization, Fossil Energy programs were managed as a division under the Assistant Secretary for Energy Technology. On October 1, 1979, many of the Department's energy research functions were recognized, and the Fossil Energy program was elevated to its current Assistant Secretary-level status.

Read a list of previous Assistant Secretaries for Fossil Energy.