Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Renewable Energy

President Bush is traveling around the U.S. touting his energy program. On the one hand, Bush is telling folks that we have to decrease our reliance on foreign oil supplies. No argument there. Former president Carter made the same argument nearly 30 years ago. On the other hand, however, when the Bush proposed budget came out, it contained cuts to the alternative energy programs. That's right - cuts. These programs have not been making headway using the monies they've been given, how were they expected to make more headway through cuts in their budgets? I mean, if Bush has better programs and organizations, then lets see them. Thus far, the President has not offered any such programs. Astute observers of politicians will note: it doesn't matter what the politician says as much as it matters on how the politician votes to spend your money. Follow the money and you can get a very clear idea of the values and positions the politician takes. Listen to the politician and you'll probably just want to bang you head against the wall, take massive amounts of drugs, or hang yourself from the shower rod.

From the Washington Post:
The Energy Department said it has come up with $5 million to immediately restore jobs cut at a renewable energy laboratory President George W. Bush will visit on Tuesday, avoiding a potentially embarrassing moment as the president promotes his energy plan.

...Bush proposed spending millions more dollars in renewable energy research. However, Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists questioned the administration's commitment when jobs were being eliminated at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.


The ensure the Colorado laboratory will have the people to carry out that research, the Energy Department transferred $5 million over the weekend to the Midwest Research Institute, the contractor that operates the renewable energy lab, to restore all the jobs cut earlier this month due to budget shortfalls.

"The action we are taking today will allow the dedicated employees at NREL to continue their work that will bring us great innovation in renewable energy technologies," Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said in a statement on Monday.

"The programs at NREL are critically important to realizing the President's vision to diversify and strengthen our nation's energy mix," Bodman said.

The Energy Department took the money from other accounts. The DOE said it will try to restore those funds by using money from several projects mandated by Congress in 2001 and 2002 "that have failed to make progress."

Got that? If not, then let's try to break it down: The President was about to go to this lab and use it as a backdrop for his energy policy. One problem: The President and Congress cut the funding for this lab. A potential embarrassment was avoided when money was transferred for a one year extension to workers at this lab who were about to be laid off due to funding cuts. The money came from other programs that were to receive funding in 2002 and 2003, but the administration never spent the money so they "failed to make progress". Imagine that?

If I recall my Constitution correctly, Congress writes laws and appropriates spending. The Executive Branch suggests spending and can either veto it or sign it into law at which point it either goes back to Congress for mark-up (or over-riding a veto) or it becomes law and the money is mandated to be spent. If the Executive branch does not spend the money, is it then breaking the law? Not that this troubles the Bush administration or it's congressional minions, but I don't believe that the Executive branch can just choose not to spend the funds. If they don't like the bill, then they should send it back to Congress to re-work it or work with their minions to re-write a portion of the bill. I'd be interested in knowing which programs "failed to make progress" and whether or not it indeed breaks the law to not spend the money.

Another point: now, I don't know about you, but I've worked in places where budgets and job security were a problem. In such situations the tendency of employees is to generally jump ship. Sure, many stay in hopes that their funding or jobs may continue to get extended, but some just decide that they cannot take that risk. The result? A serious drain on the company's resources ensues as they lose quality, trained employees forcing them to seek out and train replacements. Not exactly the wisest use of funds or internal resources. When livelihoods are threatened, even dedicated employees make reasonable decisions to find employment elsewhere. Stupid and incompetent management on the administration's part, though I'm happy that said employees are getting a year's notice so they can look for work. Smart employers in the field will begin headhunting immediately.

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