Sequestering Energy and Environment Policy

March 13, 2013 by

Before we look at the Energy and Environment Policy Chopping Block, let’s see what our elected leaders have done.  Clue: 40-odd years ago the Interior Department made a budget cut by closing Washington Monument.

That’s the approach officials have been taking, hoping Americans will plead “save us, dear leaders.”  So far, they’re being ridiculous.  Two list-toppers: releasing hundreds of criminal illegal aliens from jail before the cutbacks started, and ending White House tours.  Do those meet the Washington Monument standard?  Were they all stupid and cynical?  Yes, yes and yes.

As to the President and other officials, they threatened that their choices were: ending services for handicapped kids or those for poor kids; leaving the poor and elderly with nowhere to turn in need; cutting combat troops in every service; seeing teachers laid off all around the country, delaying IRS refund checks.  The list goes on – and raises questions:

Was Hillary Clinton right when she told Congress that DOD spends more on marching bands each year (the Washington Post says the numbers are $388 million on 148 bands) than the State Department can budget for security?  We love pageantry, but eliminating it would end all other DOD cuts.  Come on . . .

Did the President think we’d believe that ending White House public tours was the ONLY WAY he could save money (with 20 Czars and a huge staff to help think of others)?

Is closing the government for a day this week OK just because forecasters warned us apocalyptically that this would be THE STORM OF THE CENTURY (or something like it)?

Does the closure count as Sequestration savings?  It should multiply them, since far more than 20% of government employees are enjoying a mid-week weekend.

Would it make more sense to close all government offices that put together weather forecasts?  How much would that save?

Again, the list goes on and on.  It reminds me; 30-odd years ago I worked in an agency, and at budget time I discredited the justification for our 138-person Public Relations staff.  The Administrator ordered me to present our budget to the OMB examiners – and to prevent any cut to that department.  That was/this is a sham — a disgrace for officials to foist on Americans.

Every agency could make cuts without interfering with any vital function or perpetuating a cheap Washington Monument approach.  But, let’s take a quick look at some high-probability examples of how the Sequester will continue to be mismanaged by our leaders.

Interior will certainly slow oil and gas permitting processes and will slow the scheduling of oil and gas lease sales.  They may try to close a National Park or two.

EPA will not slow Superfund activity; it’s a cash cow for the agency.  Superfund was set up to clean “orphan” sites; when the responsible parties are known, they pay for cleanup.  There are almost no orphan sites.  It’s too much money in fines and fees for the EPA to give up.

EPA could, on the other hand, cut activity in major pollution events.  It’s unclear what they did in the BP disaster to speed cleanup or stop the leak with technology, know-how or ideas, so they could cut back disaster participation activities without impact on a solution, and could write PR and scare stories all the while.

EPA will implement the carbon cleanup regulation that they say “will bankrupt or put out of business” electric generating companies that fuel with coal.  Alternatively, they could let economics force that change (it is working fast now).  They won’t.  They have shut down an early-success carbon-capture facility in Colorado, and delayed the broader reg until the Presidential campaign was over.  Now they will implement the final rule it because they can.

The DOE slush fund for “green investment” is gone, so they won’t throw money at more Solyndras.  They may slow the already-slow licensing for Liquefied Natural Gas exports, and will claim that they must cut our nuclear arsenal’s security and maintenance.  Nukes are the biggest part of the DOE budget (few people know that); probably every other part could be cut to the greater benefit of the American people.

DOE’s national labs will continue to search for something costly and long-term to do, and will not be cut.

DOD won’t cut any activities that have to do with purchases of “green” technology, even though many agencies do many of the same things.  So we will continue to duplicate effort and waste money that could be used for readiness.

Much could be done to take advantage of the Sequester and avoid needless damage.  That won’t happen unless elected officials to put on their big boy pants and go to work.  Any bets?

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