Friday, February 5, 2010

Why Is DOE Dragging Its Feet on Alternative Energy?

We've been very frustrated with the Dept of Energy. After spending many weeks preparing grant proposals last year, then waiting months only to be told that our projects were "not transformative", we have the right to be a bit ticked off at the government bureaucrats.

It turns out we're not alone in our situation. According to BNET Energy,

It’s been nearly a year since the Department of Energy received $37 billion as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — aka stimulus money — and they have managed to spend $2.1 billion. That’s it. Eleven bureaucratic months later and the DOE has doled out 5.7 percent of the funds authorized in the stimulus bill. Now, to be clear, the DOE is moving faster than it has in the past and it has awarded about $25.2 billion in funds, according to information on its Web site.

It’s been awhile since BNET Energy checked in the DOE’s stimulus spending. Back in August, I wrote about DOE’s progress and at the time the government agency had awarded $9.5 billion and spent $451 million. But with DOE Secretary Steven Chu’s testimony Thursday before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, I thought it was a perfect time to check in and write about the agency’s stimulus spending.

Chu, who was asked about the figure during his testimony on the department’s proposed fiscal 2011 budget, said he was frustrated with the slow down.

Sen. Bryon Dorgan, D-N.D., hinted at the lack of stimulus spending early on in the testimony when he asked Chu — after noting the large amount of money given to the agency – if he was having fun with it? Dorgan did note the DOE had been delayed in part by slow Senate confirmations.


Later Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, honed in on the molasses-like distribution of the stimulus funds. Her biggest concern was with $32 billion unspent, how do you deal with the backlog funds, recognizing that it’s likely the DOE will get a second infusion of cash as a jobs bill comes forward?

Chu expressed disappointment with the slow disbursement of funds and laid some of the blame on the states. “The states widely vary with how they’re getting the money out,” Chu told the committee. He said some states have spent upwards of 20 percent of the stimulus funds given to them by the DOE, while others have spent zero.

Can we expect anything more out of an Administration whose speciality is blatherskitism? Or, should we attribute the delay to an attempt by the oil companies to suppress alternatives? Take your pick, it's probably a little of both.

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