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Is President Obama’s Energy Policy and the DoE Shaken and Not Stirred?

April 3, 2011

What is meant by “shaken and not stirred”? While a cool refreshing drink sounds good, this statement does not embellish James Bond’s preference for how he likes his martinis prepared. Rather in the context of this discussion, “shaken” refers to an erratic uncontrolled behavior. As opposed to “stirred,” which implies a smooth, controlled and planned movement? More appropriately, Shaken signifies the conflict behind “what is said” and “what is done” on Capitol Hill with America’s so-called energy policy.  It’s no wonder that so many have lost faith, are disillusioned, and tread on the path of energy security and a cleaner environment with a degree of skepticism.

My posting “Is This the Best America Can Do to Reduce Dependence Foreign-Oil?” discussing President Obama’s energy independence speech at Georgetown University was critical at best. It concluded that the near term trend in petroleum imports was encouraging more needs to be done in terms of developing a cohesive energy policy that stays the course and shows results on its own merits (http://tinyurl.com/barry-stevens197). Meaning that the reduction in oil imports maybe more related to the deep recession, economic crisis and skyrocketing oil prices in 2008 than federal initiatives that have been in progress for the last 40 years.

In trying to get past the rhetoric of past Democratic and Republican Administrations, the apparent means to carry out these Federal Initiatives seems to be the Department of Energy (“DoE”), the agency chartered to carry out such policies.

The mission of the DoE is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.

Specifically, the goals of the DoE are to:
• Catalyze the timely, material, and efficient transformation of the nation’s energy system and secure U.S. leadership in clean energy technologies.
• Maintain a vibrant U.S. effort in science and engineering as a cornerstone of our economic prosperity, with clear leadership in strategic areas.
• Enhance nuclear security through defense, nonproliferation, and environmental efforts.

If “follow the money” leads to the truth, then a look at DoE’s 2011 Budget can help to shed some light on America’s actual path. The table below summarizes the highlights from DoE’s 2011 Congressional Budget Request of $28.4 billion.

The Table shows:
• 62.2% ($17.7 billion) of DoE’s budget are earmarked for Atomic Energy Defense Activities.
• 31.7% ($9.0 billion) of DoE’s budget is targeted for Other Energy Programs, which includes bolstering science, nuclear energy, fossil energy, uranium enrichment, loan guarantees and acceleration funds.
• 8.3% ($2.3 billion) of DoE’s budget is earmarked for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs.
– 5.2% ($1.5 billion) will go to Energy Efficiency Programs
o About $287 million or 20% of Energy Efficiency dollars will be used for Program Direction and Support, which are personnel and operational resources for executive and technical direction, oversight and strategic corporate management, measurement planning and direction.
o Combined, Program Direction and Support constitute the 3rd highest ranking Energy Efficiency Expenditure.
– 3.1% ($877 million) will go to Renewable Energy Programs such as hydrogen, fuel cells, biomass, solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric.
o About one-third ($300 million) of all of Renewable Energy dollars will be used for solar projects.
o Program Direction and Support is funded to about the same extent as Solar Projects

In closing, with most of DoE’s funds earmarked for Atomic Energy Defenses and only a paltry sum targeted for Renewable and  Energy Efficiency programs, it’s very difficult to understand how President’s Obama’s proposed Blueprint will achieve our short-term goal of reduced dependence on foreign oil and our long-term goal of energy security and a cleaner environment. This presupposes the unlikely event of radical surgery on DoE’s budget.

Well, it seems President Obama like all who have gone before has taken the role of being a bartender, shaking far too much and stirring far too little.

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