Tag Archives: DOE

Obama’s nominee to manage contracting and budget at the Energy Department had serious problems doing the same job while she was at NASA.

The merry-go-round: Obama’s nominee to manage contracting and budget at the Energy Department had serious problems doing the same job while she was at NASA.

A Washington Times review of NASA inspector general reports finds the space agency struggled to achieve austerity under Ms. Robinson’s financial leadership, as cost overruns grew sixfold from $50 million in 2009 to $315 million in 2012. … Audits conducted during Ms. Robinson’s tenure as CFO uncovered that NASA spent an average of $66 per person per day for light refreshments at conferences, shelled out $1.5 million to develop a video game to replicate astronauts’ experiences and reimbursed employees $1.4 million for tuition dating to 2006 for degrees unrelated to their NASA jobs.

But no matter. Her resume lists all these important past jobs, so she must be qualified!

Four Princeton physicists received over $1.5 million in lodging subsidies from the Department of Energy while on “temporary” assignment to other labs, even after living at that assigment for as much as 14 years.

The work is good if you can get it: Four Princeton physicists received over $1.5 million in lodging subsidies from the Department of Energy while on “temporary” assignment to other labs, even after living at that assignment for as much as 14 years.

The above story, from Science, takes a more sympathic view of this misuse of government funds. The Washington Post is more blunt:

Four high-ranking federal lab workers found a way to turn “per diem” funds for a temporary assignment into a steady flow of extra income — at taxpayers’ expense. The overpayments, discovered in an inspector general’s audit, boosted the annual pay of some of the employees by as much as $64,000.

The Department of Energy paid the four scientists roughly $1.8 million for daily lodging and “inconvenience” during assignments away from home. But these scientists were paid as if they were on temporary duty for up to 14 years — long after most had permanently relocated to job sites.

The problem with this story is that it isn’t an exception but the rule. Right now the wolves are guarding the chicken house, and they are raiding it routinely for as much cash as they can get. Consider for example last week’s story about the NIH study that has spent a billion dollars without even getting off the ground.

You give someone the equivalent of a blank check, and they will make no effort to do things efficiently, or even to do what you hired them for.

The world’s largest solar power project, recipient of the second largest ever Department of Energy loan guarantee, has filed for bankruptcy.

Another wise investment of the Obama administration: The world’s largest solar power project, recipient of the second largest ever Department of Energy loan guarantee, has filed for bankruptcy.

Update and correction: It turns out that the company was offered the DOE loan guarantee, but turned it down. Read this second article. The facts it describe make the decisions of the Obama administration seem beyond foolish.

NIH and DOE in the proposed budget deal

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the science office in the Department of Energy (DOE) appear to avoid serious cuts in the proposed budget deal.

Actually, NIH’s budget remains almost identical to what it got in 2012, $30.6 billion. However, this amount is $1.4 billion more than it got in 2008, and $1.7 billion more than it got in 2007. As for DOE’s Office of Science, the $4.889 billion for 2012 is still $700 million more than the office got in 2008.

In other words, considering the budget deficits the federal government faces, these 2012 budget numbers hardly seem to be a reasonable attack on the problem. Simply bringing those budget numbers back down to 2008 numbers would hardly damage the work these government agencies are doing, and it would surely do more to reduce the deficit.

Electric car company shuts down

For once, the taxpayer doesn’t get screwed: The electric car company Aptera has shut down due to lack of interest from investors and the lack of a loan from the government.

The California company was counting on a federal loan – and private investments to match the loan – so that it could start producing its very first electric vehicle. Aptera said it was close to securing a $150 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, but it couldn’t line up the private dollars necessary to complete the loan application process.

Energy Department approves $737 million solar loan guarantee

More money wasted? The Energy Department has approved another solar power company loan guarantee, this for $737 million.

I’m not sure this project will go belly-up, as Solyndra did. I just find it questionable for this to be approved at this moment.

Senate approves a flat budget for the Department of Energy

The Senate has approved a flat budget for the Department of Energy.

On Wednesday the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $4.843 billion for DOE’s Office of Science in 2012. That’s the same level as this year, and a slight bump over the $4.8 billion approved in July on a largely partisan vote by the House of Representatives covering the entire department. Although the funding is a far cry from the $5.416 billion that the Obama Administration had requested in February for the next fiscal year, which begins on 1 October, officials at the Office of Science’s 10 national labs say they’re not complaining. “Even staying flat when a lot of other programs are getting cut is relatively good news,” says Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. In budgets, “flat is the new good,” quips Eric Isaacs, director of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. [emphasis mine]

That a government official is now happy that the budget is flat is a good sign that we might finally be making some cultural progress in terms of bringing the federal budget under some control. In the past the very thought of no increase would have sent these people into spasms of outrage. Now they realize how pointless such a tantrum would be, and might actually do their budget negotiations harm.

Underground Physics Lab to Cost U.S. Energy Department at Least $1.2 Billion

A new report released today says a new underground physics lab will cost the Energy Department from $1.2 to $2.2 billion.

Though I know the science is worthwhile and we should be doing it, I also can’t help ask this question: Where the hell are we going to get the money?