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Wasted Energy

Monday February 23rd, 2015   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 5:03am PST   •  

DOE_Logo_200The U.S. Department of Energy claims lineage from the Manhattan Project of World War II, and its official history cites none other than Albert Einstein. Actually, the DOE dates its inception from 1977: “[T]he twelfth cabinet-level department brought together for the first time within one agency two programmatic traditions that had long coexisted within the Federal establishment.” The president at the time was Jimmy Carter, who also launched the federal Department of Education as a payoff to the National Education Association for supporting him. Carter was known for his “misery index” and national “malaise.” As Sarah Westwood notes in the Washington Examiner, none of that for the current bosses at the U.S. Department of Energy, who like to party.

In one year alone they spent $21 million hosting, count ‘em, 329 “government employee conferences” such as casino nights, a Super Bowl party, and dinner cruises. Westwood notes that the department spent taxpayer dollars on a golf tournament and a dinner at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. A full 16 of the conferences, held between April 2013 and September 2014, cost $100,000 or more. The department “declined to host their events in federal facilities and instead opted to rent space in swanky hotels.” Westwood does not say anyone was disciplined or fired for this waste and extravagance, so taxpayers can take it as more evidence that the federal government is unaccountable and probably unreformable. But this department has deeper problems.

The DOE official history also notes: “Until the 1970s, the Federal government played a limited role in formulating national energy policy in an era of relatively cheap and abundant energy. The nation relied on the private sector to fulfill most of its energy needs. Historically, Americans expected private industry to establish production, distribution, marketing, and pricing policies. When free market conditions were absent, Federal regulations were established to control energy pricing.”

In other words, the U.S. Department of Energy, with its budget of $30 billion, doesn’t actually create much energy. The private sector still supplies most of it, and the department’s regulation makes it more expensive for taxpayers. So it makes perfect sense that the department wastes taxpayer dollars on Super Bowl parties, casino nights, and such.

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February 2015