Notes on “Energy Czar”; a Reading Recommendation for the “Car Czar”

Michael Giberson

“Energy czar” is a term with a pedigree in the United States, being applied at least as early as December 1973 to William E. Simon, who Nixon appointed to head the Federal Energy Administration. The Time article in the link observes that Simon was advocating a 50 mph national speed limit and a mandatory allocation program for home heating oil even before the Arab Oil Embargo and related energy market disruptions.

Nixon-era general wage-price controls evolved into more elaborate energy industry intervention in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975. It took the U.S. economy a decade to shake off the effects of these policies and others like them. Some of the policies – like corporate average fuel economy mandates – are still with us. For a reminder of 1970s-style energy czarism, see this FRBNY Quarterly Review article from Winter 1980-81, “Oil price decontrol and beyond.” The article details the complexities of the federal government’s efforts to control domestic crude oil prices, and the effort shows just how hard it can be for the government to manage a piece of industry.

In 1981 Atari came out with “Energy Czar,” a policy simulation game by Chris Crawford. A review of the program describes it: “Atari’s Energy Czar is a colorful and entertaining way of introducing users to the problems of the U.S. energy economy. It offers first hand experience in formulating energy policies, exploring energy policy bias, and will help users to discover the difficult trade-offs that must be made between energy needs.”

The review observes that, “in the beginning, Energy Czar can be frustrating. A newcomer to the program may often lose without understanding why.” Fortunately, the game Energy Czar came with a manual. The reviewer “recommend[ed] reading the manual thoroughly before attempting to play,” adding, “You’ll be surprised at the amount of interesting and useful information Atari included in the manual.”

Unfortunately, the position of “car czar” doesn’t come with a manual. May I suggest Chapter 7, “The process of creative destruction,” in Joseph Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy?

2 thoughts on “Notes on “Energy Czar”; a Reading Recommendation for the “Car Czar”

  1. I suggest that my later game, Balance of the Planet , published in 1990, is a much better overall simulation, both in terms of entertainment and education.

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