Sunday, September 26, 2010

Your Insane U.S. Energy Department

By Alan Caruba

In mid-September, Cathy Zoi, an Assistant Secretary of Energy, said that the U.S. Department of Energy has a “mandate” to issue regulations about what household appliances should be available to Americans in the future.

A CNSnews story reported that while speaking at the inaugural meeting of the recently reestablished Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, Ms. Zoi “pointed to four tactics the Obama administration intended to use to advance the ‘deployment of clean energy.’ The first three were government subsidies, special tax incentives, and low-interest government-backed loans for green energy projects.”

The likelihood that any of these “green energy” projects will yield any electrical power comparable to a single coal-fired or nuclear plant is negligible. Two recent huge wastes of taxpayer money involve a $57 million program that includes $11 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the failed “stimulus” plan—to support clean energy technology commercialization projects for 33 small businesses across the country.

Among the projects is “harvesting/dewatering technology for algal biofuels”, money devoted to algae as a source of power. Other projects include organic light-emitting diodes, and advanced materials and bio-fueled oxide fuel cells. Meanwhile, the moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico restricts the provision of an energy source on which the nation is dependent.

In September the DOE also awarded $37 million for “marine and hydrokinetic energy technology development.” The object of this is to “accelerate the technologies and commercial readiness of technologies “to generate renewable electricity from the nation’s oceans and free-flowing rivers and streams.” Meanwhile the nation already generates six percent of its electricity from hydroelectric systems among which the Hoover Dam is one of the best known.

The Department of Energy was created in the wake of the oil crisis of the 1970s and was signed into existence by President Jimmy Carter on August 4, 1977. Its responsibilities were the nation’s nuclear weapons program, a nuclear reactor for the U.S. Navy, energy conservation, energy-related research, radioactive waste disposal, and domestic energy production.

It currently employs 16,000 federal workers and, in 2009, had an annual budget of $24.1 billion. President Obama appointed Dr. Steven Chu as its Secretary. Dr. Chu is perhaps best known for recommending that global warming can be avoided by painting the roofs and highways white in order to reflect back the sun’s radiation. Will someone please get a net and throw it over Dr. Chu?

One might think that the DOE would have taken an active role in the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but that responsibility was handed over to the U.S. Coast Guard while the Department of the Interior was a key player as well.

Meanwhile, over at the DOE, Ms. Zoi was gloating that the fourth tactic “which the Secretary and I love is where we have a mandate. Where we can actually just issue regulations and do market transformation.”

Where is it written in the U.S. Constitution that the government should play an active role in “market transformation”? The DOE intends to “set efficiency standards for energy-consuming products.”

These will include commercial clothes washers, small electric motors, water heaters, direct heating equipment and pool heaters, among the countless products consumers use on a daily basis.

Instead of encouraging the building of more coal-fired, natural gas, and nuclear plants to generate the electricity a population in excess of 300 million use daily, the DOE wants to get between consumers and manufacturers to “mandate” how much electricity products can use!

“We’re going to make people save money for themselves,” said Ms. Zoi.

I have a great idea how to save billions. Shut down the Department of Energy.

© Alan Caruba, 2010


Desertrat said...

Pick your federal agency: The apparent purpose, based on results, is to degrade the quality of whatever is given to their charge. (I'll exclude much of the EPA's effort.)

Education? Energy? Health? Interior? Agriculture?

"Where's the beef?", as the ad said.

I note that incompetent bosses tend to appoint incompetent deputies. Power without any common sense or knowledge of reality.

Guy said...

The DOE has let us down on three of the most important tasks they were charged with ... energy research, production of domestic energy, and nuclear waste disposal, all of which SHOULD have gone hand-in-hand. It's absolutely OUTRAGEOUS that after all these years, we don't lead the world in the production of clean, abundant energy. Had that same amount of money been made available to the private sector, with sizable incentives and rewards for measurable advances and innovation, our energy problems would have been solved long ago. Perhaps we haven't been patient enough. Those new toasters and washing machines may just do the trick ...

Meanwhile, we handing our entire health care system over to a similar bunch of idiots. I hope I don't get sick anytime in the near future ....

TexasFred said...

Do away with ALL Czars and at least 3/4 of ALL government agencies and the USA is back to GOOD, Obama is out of a job, but I fail to see that as a *bad* thing..

Rich Kozlovich said...

Good job! I will be linking it on Friday.

You outline the whole problem with the DOE in a few short paragraphs. The fact that it was created by Jimmy is reason enough to question its value. I love the net over Chu comment. The man is completely certifiable; which means he fits in perfectly with this group.

Now we need to figure out how much we would save if we eliminated the 16th amendment, which would eliminate the IRS (which I am told is the only thing that is paid for by the nation's withholding tax) pass a Value Added Tax, Eliminate the Commerce Department, the Department of Education and a seriously reduce the legislative authority of a bunch of agencies.

It has been estimated by the SBA that the current cost of federal regulations to this nation is 1.76 trillion dollars. Does anyone really believe that all of these regulations are really necessary? Is there anyone who doesn't believe that we could cut them in half and save 880 billion dollars a year? That means in 15 years we would be able to pay off the entire national debt of 13 trillion and have some left over. And that is just half. How much more is it when you add state, county and city rules and regulations?

Alan Caruba said...

@Rich: Thank you for the link. Lots of good feedback on this commentary.

Mike said...

I agree the DOE (and most of the federal agencies) needs to be abolished. If Obama were serious about clean, U.S.-produced energy he could end all the subsidies to coal, oil, solar, wind, etc. and instead vow that within say a 15 year period, the federal government would buy only clean, renewable, made in the U.S. energy. The buying power of the feds would lead to huge private research as companies found ways to sell energy as cheap as possible to the government (lest their competitors sell cheaper).

Personally, I don't care whether it is U.S. made; I would just like less pollution.

Nevertheless, Shai Agassi (look him up) is going to get our vehicles off oil since he found a way to make electric cars cheaper to run/operate than gas/diesel. The internal combustion engine will go away faster than any of us imagine.

Desertrat said...

Mike, electric cars are fine as basic commuter transportation. But nobody talks about things like farm tractors or work-truck payloads.

E.g., right now a guy can carry a half-ton of gear in a pickup as work tools or equipment. What do you wind up with as a vehicle if the battery pack is near a half-ton in order to provide range and power?

Then there's rail and semi-tractor haulage over long distances. For semis, it would not be economic for them to stop every couple of hours and spend several hours recharging.

And one coal-fired plant equals a thousand wind units per coal unit. It would require an additional 40,000 wind units in Texas to replace existing coal-fired units.

Looking at the demand quantity for fossil fuels, these alternative energy ideas totally fail as replacement. Augmentation? Yeah, partially...

Guy said...

People like Mike just keep trying to believe the electric vehicle fantasy, but it's just that ... a fantasy. For one thing, as Desertrat points out, it will take an act of God to develop a battery that can power the larger vehicles without weighing more than the payload. Maybe it will happen SOME day, but that day is not today, and we need a solution TODAY. In fact, the same thing is essentially true for passenger vehicles. The batteries that would allow us to drive our passenger vehicles the way we do today just don't exist.

Short commutes and trips to the store in warm weather? Great .... Driving the family car 100 miles to Grandma's house in the winter? Not happening any time soon ...

And how many people are going to be able to afford to own BOTH types of cars? If electric cars were $2000, maybe, but not when they're costing MORE than gasoline powered cars....

Secondly, the electric vehicle proponents just keep forgetting the BIGGEST problem. Where is all this energy going to come from to CHARGE them? They just don't understand the MASSIVE amount of energy we use to move everybody, and everything around every day. If we went electric, our entire grid would have to be replaced, and that includes building millions of killowatt hours of additional generation capacity. If everyone comes home at dinner time and plugs their car in, the peak demand would be astronomical.

It's a nice idea, and one that may play a part in our energy picture some day, much like electric golf carts replaced the gas powered ones at many golf courses. But I predict we will NEVER be able to eliminate our need for petroleum powered vehicles until they can perfect fuel cells or something better ... like fusion power maybe?

Meanwhile, it would behoove us to face REALITY and deal with it, instead of wasting time and energy chasing a flawed technology that won't solve the basic problem. We're doing the same thing with CF light bulbs ... and it's ridiculous.