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The Department of Energy (DoE) Exposed

April 5, 2011

This discussion examines the DoE independent of Capitol Hill, if that is at all possible. DoE’s FY 2000 and 2012 Budget Requests are reviewed on a line item and comparative basis to elucidate America’s Energy Policy.  Solar, wind, biomass, hydrogen, geothermal and hydroelectric funding levels are explored in context to nuclear defense activities and fossil fuel energy programs. Facts from DoE’ expenditures are separated from fiction told by present and past Administrations and Legislators.  The objective is to establish realistic expectations of America’s path towards energy security and reduced reliance on foreign oil and fossil fuels.

 

After reading the vast number of comments received from “, Is President Obama’s Energy Policy and the DoE Shaken and Not Stirred?” it became apparent that a disconnect exists in the public’s eyes between what is they think and what is actually being done by the DoE.  To most, the purpose and real agenda of the DoE is not readily understood. There is nothing covert or clandestine about the DoE. There is no conspiracy or supervise activities to discover. The DoE makes no claims as to who they are other than that found in their website and other official releases. It appears the politicians on Capitol Hill paint an unrealistic picture of America’s real agenda, which is not supported by the means available versus that required. The fact is the DoE is as American as Apple Pie.

 

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

 

The Department has three objectives:
• Goal 1: Catalyze the timely, material, and efficient transformation of the nation’s energy system and secure U.S. leadership in clean energy technologies.
• Goal 2: Maintain a vibrant U.S. effort in science and engineering as a cornerstone of our economic prosperity, with clear leadership in strategic areas.
• Goal 3: Enhance nuclear security through defense, nonproliferation, and environmental efforts.

 

Historically, the DoE was created in response to the energy crisis of the 1970s, which demonstrated the need for unified energy planning within the federal government. On August 4, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Organization Act (Public Law 95-91), centralizing the responsibilities of the Federal Energy Administration, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Federal Power Commission and other energy-related government programs into a single presidential cabinet-level department. The DOE, activated on Oct. 1, 1977, provided the framework for a comprehensive national energy plan by coordinating federal energy functions. The new Department was responsible for long-term, high-risk research and development of energy technology, federal power marketing, energy conservation, energy regulatory programs, a central energy data collection and analysis program, and nuclear weapons research, development and production.

 

When the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the primary missions of many former nuclear weapons production sites changed to environmental remediation. In 1989, Energy Secretary James Watkins created the new Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management (later renamed the DOE Office of Environmental Management) to mitigate risks and hazards posed by legacy nuclear weapons production (http://www.lm.doe.gov/land/sites/oh/fernald_orig/aboutfernald/dhist.htm).

A brief look at the structure of the DoE will help to shed some light on who and what they are. The DoE is organized into three Offices: 1) Program, 2) Inter-Departmental and 3) Administrative, including:

Nuclear Security
• Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation
• Naval Reactors
• Nuclear Security
• Infrastructure and Environment
• Defense Programs Counter-terrorism
• Emergency Operations
• Management & Administration

Science
• Advanced Scientific Computing Research
• Basic Engineering Sciences
• Biological & Environmental Research
• Fusion Energy Science
• High Energy Physics
• Nuclear Physics Workforce Development for Teachers & Scientists

Energy
• Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
• Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability
• Nuclear Energy
• Environmental Management
• Fossil Energy
• Legacy Management
• Indian Energy Policy & Programs

Inter-Departmental
• Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy
• Loan Office Programs
• American Recovery & Reinvestment Act

Administrative
• Management
• Health Safety & Security
• Hearings & Appeals
• General Counsel
• Chief Financial Officer
• Human Capital
• Information
• Intelligence & Counter Intelligence
• Public Affairs
• Policy & International Affairs
• Congressional & Intergovernmental Affairs
• Economic Impact and & Diversity
• Energy Information Administration
• Bonneville Power Administration
• Southwest Power Administration
• Southeastern Power Administration
• Policy & International Affairs
• Congressional & Intergovernmental Affairs

 

The mission and functions of various Offices are:
• Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy: ARPA-E funds high risk, high payoff projects that will reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy imports; decrease U.S. energy related emissions (including greenhouse gasses); improve energy efficiency across the country and ensure that the U.S. maintains its leadership in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.
• Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability: The mission of the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is to lead national efforts to modernize the electric grid, enhance the security and reliability of the energy infrastructure, and facilitate recovery from disruptions to the energy supply.
• Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy: The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
• Office of Environmental Management: The Office of Environmental Management (EM) works to mitigate the risks and hazards posed by the legacy of nuclear weapons production and research.
• Office of Fossil Energy: Ensuring that we can continue to rely on clean, affordable energy from our traditional fuel resources is the primary mission of DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy.
• Office of Legacy Management: The Office of Legacy Management (LM) manages the Department’s post-closure responsibilities and ensures the future protection of human health and the environment.
• Loan Programs Office: The Loan Programs Office’s mission is to accelerate the commercial deployment of innovative and advanced clean energy technologies across America, at a scale large enough to help reach our national objectives for clean energy.
• Office of Nuclear Energy: The Office of Nuclear Energy mission is to support the nation’s diverse nuclear energy programs.
• Office of Science: The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, providing more than 40 percent of total funding for this vital area of national importance.

 

This commentary follows the same path as the previous discussion by following the money to find the truth.  The table below summarizes the highlights from DoE’s 2012 Congressional Budget Request of $29,546,730. Note, DoE’s FY2011 budget request of $28.4 billion was reduced about 5% to $27 billion, an approximate $1.4 billion savings. There were many across the board line item reductions, however, fossil energy programs increased by $191 million.

This analysis shows:
• 26% increase in total budget expenditures on Atomic Energy Defense Activities Programs from 2000 to 2012.
• 10% increase in total budget expenditures on Other Energy Programs from 2000 to 2012, which includes Science  – promoting scientific discoveries in basic energy sciences, biological and environmental research, fusion energy science programs, high energy physics and nuclear physics, etc.
• 4% increase in total budget expenditures on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs from 2000 to 2012.
• 1.7% increase in total budget expenditures on Renewable Energy Programs from 2000 to 2012.
• 2.2% increase in total budget expenditures on Energy Efficiency Programs from 2000 to 2012.
• 2.2 % of the proposed FY 2000 budget was targeted to Renewable Energy Programs.
• No single renewable energy technology including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, and hydrogen are funded to no more that 1.5% of the budget for either 2000 or 2012.
• 4.7% of the proposed FY 2000 budget was targeted to Energy Efficiency Programs.
• 3.9 % of the proposed FY 2012 budget was targeted to Renewable Energy Programs.
• 6.9% of the proposed FY 2000 budget was targeted to Energy Efficiency Programs.
• Overt Fossil Energy Programs remained flat with no change at 1.8% of total expenditures for both the FY 2000 and FY 2012 budgets.

 

An interesting article that appeared in June 16, 1997 issue of Power Online, states: “The Department of Energy (DOE) has proposed a $16.6 billion core budget for fiscal year 1998 which allocates $672.4 million for fossil energy-related research and petroleum reserves programs” (http://www.poweronline.com/article.mvc/DOEs-1998-Budget-Proposal-Includes-672-Millio-0001).

This demonstrates that the DoE treats Renewable Energy and Efficiency Programs as a 3rd class citizen, a necessary nuisance, to say the least. For this very reason, the rhetoric echoed over the last 40 years by both Democratic and Republican Administrations is as phony as a 3 dollar bill. Nice talk but devoid of substance.

 

In closing, it is now crystal clear that the DOE is principally a national security agency and all of its missions flow from this core mission to support national security. Rest assure, America does have an energy policy, but it does not included to a large extent renewables and efficient practices. U.S. energy policy is as American as Apple Pie. It’s far from reassuring to know that on this path, America’s apparent goals of energy security and environmental stewardship is far from a reality.

 

I raise this glass of fresh crude and toast our Leaders on Capitol Hill for telling us what’s what with a forked tongue and an election ballot in hand.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Kyle permalink
    April 7, 2011 1:17 PM

    Barry, you are absolutely correct that the DOE’s primary focus is security and defense issues. However, I would like to point out that I find that this line of your text is misleading or, at least, easily misconstrued. It again leads to the misconception that DOE was formed to invent new, green energy sources:
    “Historically, the DoE was created in response to the energy crisis of the 1970s, …centralizing the responsibilities of the Federal Energy Administration, the Energy Research and Development Administration,…” What people have to understand is that the Energy Research and Development Administration is not energy in general. It’s the renamed Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) – who is in charge of our nuclear weapons stockpile and development. All the other agencies that you list in that sentence are like ants and the AEC was the elephant.

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