Energy Extravaganza

Tait Trussell is a national award-winning writer, former vice-president of the American Enterprise Institute and former Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.


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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Sept. 15 proudly released a tale of an unemployed auto-industry engineer in Detroit, Leon Brown, who started a small all-minority employee weatherizing business. The firm is financed by a $5 million grant from the infamous stimulus package. His employees come from “non-traditional energy backgrounds,” but have “the ability to be cross trained quickly,” the story promises. “It’s not held against our applicants that they won’t know anything about weatherization,” says Brown. It’s all part of the government’s subsidized job creation drive, especially in “green” work. The DOE is calling for a 43 percent increase from the prior year, to $300 million, in weatherization assistance grants.

But this tidbit of economic news is only one tiny portion of the vast variety of areas in which the U.S. Department of Energy now has its fingers. And many are far from the purpose for which the department was established. It’s a case of a federal department infatuated to be politically correct “green” with too much on its plate.

The Department of Energy had always been proud in tracing it origins to the historic Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during World War II. While the department still does have under its wing the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, which regulates the nuclear power industry, the department had a much different priority assignment when it was given life by Jimmy Carter in 1977.

On April 18, 1977, President Jimmy Carter addressed the American people urging the “need to act quickly…to change to strict conservation” before demand for petroleum could overtake production. Government policies “must be predictable and certain….This is one reason I am working with the Congress to create a new Department of Energy, to replace 50 different  agencies that now have some control over energy.” Today the department has many more than 50 different agencies or activities, ranging from education of young potential scientists to the human Genome project. But the activity surge is to make the economy green.

The breadth of the departmental functions is seen in the description of the department’s budget for fiscal 2011.The budget’s dollars are to prod development of a clean energy economy and improve energy efficiency, the Environmental Leader reported Feb. 2. Although the department was instituted to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, 34 percent of our oil then was from foreign imports. Now, in 2010—33 years later, 51.5 percent of our oil is from foreign imports.

It’s a long way from Jimmy Carter’s call for conservation and energy restraint because of shrinking oil supplies to the Genome Project, for example. Completed in 2003, the Human Genome Project took 13 years to identify the 20,000 to 25,000 genes in human DNA. The National Institutes of Health, with an assist from the DOE, did the research.  DOE’s Office of Science will continue to address genomics as well as “issues ancillary to energy, such as climate change and life sciences,” for which it asked $5.1 billion. The Office of Science “supports investments in areas of research critical to our clean energy future and making the U.S. a leader on climate change.”

In the fiscal 2011 budget proposal, the Energy department said it would “develop new ways to produce and use energy and pursue game-changing breakthroughs, invest in innovative technologies, and deploy commercially valuable solutions.” In addition to innovation and energy advances, national security will continue to be part of DOE’s efforts…”at home and around the world to reduce the global threat posed by nuclear weapons[.]”

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  • jacob

    I believe the whole project to be a colossal crock of you-know-what and it only takes a chld to realize THIS emperor is stark naked.

    Granted: this of painting roofs white has some merit but I would have given this genius more credit if he would have insisted in making mandatory the installation of SOLAR WATER HEATERS in every home or building as in ISRAEL, which would save more electricity than the white roofs will ever do

    Watching the pests eliminator on TV, it was shown the damage done by rodents to a home wiring but it so happens that in third world countries, where homes are not built of
    wood and cardboard, roofs that are a Godsend for roofers and cost a fortune, ALL ELECTRIC WIRING MUST BE ENCASED IN METAL TUBING…
    HOW ABOUT THIS FOR OUR BUILDING NORMS ??

    • sflbib

      "…ELECTRIC WIRING MUST BE ENCASED IN METAL TUBING."

      It used to be 50 years ago. What happened?

      • ajnn

        are pvc tubes used for electric wires these days ?

      • LibertyLover

        In industrial/commmercial electrical wiring it is common to encase wires in electrical conduit (metal tubing) but is not generally done in residential construction. Such a requirement would greatly increase the cost of construction for housing.

  • sflbib

    In the '70s, we found out that when an alternative way is found to eliminate oil, OPEC lowers the price of oil below the point where the alternative way is not competitive. We are repeating this mistake.
    The cost of producing energy from alternative sources is so expensive that it required subsidies in the form of tax credits, and even then their cost-effectiveness is doubtful. There is a member of my homeowners association who wants to install a wind turbine generator on his roof, and I looked at the manufacturer's website, and according to the specs and the resulting math, the model he wants requires a 20 mph wind blowing 24/7 for ten years before he breaks even and begins to save money, and that doesn't include maintenance nor the lost interest of his initial investment of $15,000. This is the reality of alternative energy.

    Like global warming, this is just another manufactured crisis to shift massive amounts of money to the energy segment of America’s ruling class. http://spectator.org/archives/2010/07/16/americas

    • bubba4

      Really? Because the "ruling class" is into big oil…in fact our entire country is into big oil and they are already making money hand over fist.

      So I don't see how helping someone start a solar panel company or something is a massive shift of wealth to the ruling class.

    • mylesman

      I watched a reality tv show recently with some Hollywood B actor who was estatic about putting a wind turbine on his roof. This actor came off as a nut case, obsessed with his carbon footprint.

      And this week, algore blamed the high temperatures and floods in Pakistan on global warming. Yeah, there has never been flooding or hot weather before the industrial revolution.

      Both of these guys are rich and infamous, and both sound like deranged cultists. Neither of these clowns deserve a sentence of publicity.

      • Nick Shaw

        Funny, Osama Bin laden agrees with Algore. Goes to show even a guy in a cave knows how to work liberals.

  • bubba4

    FPM avoids talking about the problem all this sh*t is trying to address by focusing on what's being done and said to fix it and pretending there really is no problem. Sure this article has a lot of numbers…but it doesn't really tell you anything. This is probably because the take away should be…"damn government wasting my money"

    "But as for renewable energy sources, Energy Secretary Chu has to be saddened to know his Energy Information Administration calculates the energy from renewables will be only 12.4 percent of all energy by 2035, even less than in 2007."

    Shouldn't we ALL be a little saddened by this? And you wonder why we need initiatives and money to spur a slight change in direction? You think BP is working on the next oil-free power source?

    • ajnn

      good point. research and investment are often good and the payoff can be unanticipated. research has a lot in common with lottery tickets. but remember, one lottery ticket does pay off – always. but reasearch sometimes does not pay off – ever.

      the world is a complicated place.

      • bubba4

        Research never pays off? WTF are you talking about.

        • Nick Shaw

          Don't know how to read yet bubba? "Sometimes does not pay off.." If you were truthful, the vast majority of research, in fact, does not pay off.

          • bubba4

            EVER….thats how it ends. Maybe you don't know how to read. I thought you weren't going to write me anymore and here you are injecting yourself.

          • Nick Shaw

            Injecting myself? I swear I stopped doing that years and years ago! As for writing you, sometimes a fella' has to reverse course when he sees crap in the water ahead.

  • Nick Shaw

    Holy Moly! Given the number of pies the DOE has it's finger in you would think they were the whole government! A couple of questions. How does a small weatherizing concern manage to get a $5M endowment from the DOE? I would think the constant harping about efficiency and conservation would have helped any competent weatherizing company make money without government backing. Maybe a startup loan but, good grief, $5M? Oh, I forgot, it's minority intensive. There are so many insanities in this article it's hard to know where to start! For example, world energy use projected to grow by 49% but, renewables are the fastest growing by rising 4 or 2.5% (whoever you believe) How does that statement make sense or am I just stupid? And with all the DOE does, Chu wants us to paint our roofs white? That's what he wants to push? The lunatics have taken over the pursestrings! We are lost!

    • PAthena

      Agreed. On top of this boondoggle for the taxpayers, This "minority intensive" company is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which command equal treatment under the law – regardless of race. The Obama administration seems to think that black supremacy does not violate the law or the constitution. (See the testimony of Christopher Coates before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission on Friday, September 24 about the Obama Administration policy of racial discrimination against whites.)

  • GBArg

    When, as multiple problems caused by the ownership of Middle Eastern despots continue to mount to the point of threatening the life and safety of Americans and those in the West in general, will things reach the point that the logical solution is to mount a massive attack on said despots, confiscate the energy supplies there and in the process crush the threat of worldwide Islam and Shariah law, for the next 100 years?

    • Nick Shaw

      You are in good company with some here GBArg.

  • pyeatte

    It is disgusting how the DOE has been corrupted by political correctness, starting with the dopey director. They are literally wasting billions on non-starter, non-traditional energy sources, trying to avoid, at all costs, fossil fuels and nuclear power. Politics over science – these people need to be removed from power at the earliest possible time.

  • pyeatte

    What is so tiring about all this is our energy problems are all political and not technical – in other words self-induced. We have no need to go take oil or gas from others. We have enormous supplies of our own but not the political will to develop them. Instead we have an energy dufus for president and the people around him are no different. Instead of 100 nuclear power plants, we should have 500 by now – end of electric generation problems. Spent nuclear fuel can be reprocessed into more fuel – end of waste problem. We are never going to run out of oil or gas because is it continually being replenished by the same processes that produced what we burn now. Why do you think oil "seeps" from the ocean floor – it is because vast reservoirs deep under the sea are full and filling, with the overage having no place to go but up.
    There are three sources of natural gas (methane, CH4) – thermogenic, biogenic and abiogenic where the last, abiogenic, is from non-biological sources. Look up the differences. Again, the only shortage we have is leaders with backbones.

    • Nick Shaw

      Couldn't agree more pyeatte. Drill here and now would solve so many problems economic and strategic that one has to assume not doing so is the course for nefarious reasons. And it would free up money and resources for the development of any number of alternative energy ideas that make sense (bio-fuels? Please stop!) without enormous "investment" by governments with agendas.

  • davarino

    Yes, well said my friend.

    Unless mr. chu helps us find unobtainium, then we could use that in our cars instead of oil

  • Nick Shaw

    Agreed ebony, if you imply by "we'd be producing a lot more oil" you mean, drill here and now. One minor point, though I'm with you as far as nuclear goes, coal is the major source of power for electricity generation. Cleaning up coal burning emissions from generating plants has made giant strides over the last few years. If the powers that be (not for long I hope) get off this CO2 is the devil's spawn kick and let them develop better scrubbers for the really nasty emmissions, low cost coal fired plants would spring up everywhere supplied by a cheap, near inexhaustable supply of fuel. Not to mention that 3 letter word, JOBS (thanks Joe "Bite Me" Biden). Common sense does seem to be lacking in America these days.

    • ebonystone

      Yes, coal is still, as it has been for a century or so, the major energy source for producing electricity. But if Jimmy Peanut had begun a real energy policy, nuclear would have become the main source for electricity. The French did pursue such a policy, and for many years now have generated ca. 75% of their electricity from nuclear plants (virtually all the rest is from hydro) and they export electricity to every one of their neighboring countries, including the U.K. As you say, coal plants are cleaner than they used to be, but largely at the cost of expensive add-ons like the scrubbers. Overall, nuclear is much less polluting. Interesting statistic: a 1000 MW coal plant (a typical size) requires a 100-car trainload of coal every 18 HOURS to operate; the same size nuclear plant requires one trailer-truck load of fuel every 18 MONTHS. That's a lot of diesel fuel used hauling all that coal.

      • Nick Shaw

        Like I said, I'm totally with you as far as nuclear goes. I push the coal 'cause of jobs. It is stupidity without precedent to, in principle if not fact, outlaw coal and nuclear while bowing down to some nebulous "green" god. By the way, the trains can run on electricity too.

        • ebonystone

          re: trains running on electricity.
          Yes, indeed! And the U.S. was once a leader in rail-electrification technology — another technology, like nuclear power, that we walked away from, while other countries applied it. Nearly a century ago, work was started on a new electric railroad between New York and Chicago that would connect the cities in 10 hours, running at 100 mph or more most of the way. A century ago! With present technology the trains could run at 200 mph. (Only a short demonstration stretch of the new line was actually built; the high costs, and the opposition of the other railroads, with their powerful political connections, combined to stop it.)
          But there were a number of successful rail electrifications. Sadly, the only ones that remain are the former Pennsylvania lines from NY to Washington and Harrisburg, and a number of commuter lines.