13 April 2010

Gubmint and How Gubmint Works

JWT sent me this rant from 2009, author unknown, points out how the Department of Energy suffers mission creep and failure.
Once upon a time the government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of a desert. Congress said, "Someone may steal from it at night."

So they created a night watchman position and hired a person for the job.

Then Congress said, "How does the watchman do his job without instruction?"

So they created a planning department and hired two people, one person to write the instructions, and one person to do time studies.

Then Congress said, "How will we know the night watchman is doing the tasks correctly?"

So they created a Quality Control department and hired two people. One to do the studies and one to write the reports.

Then Congress said, "How are these people going to get paid?"

So they created the following positions, a time keeper, and a payroll officer, then hired two people.

Then Congress said, "Who will be accountable for all of these people?"

So they created an administrative section and hired three people, an Administrative Officer, Assistant Administrative Officer, and a Legal Secretary.

Then Congress said, "We have had this command in operation for one Year and we are $18,000 over budget, we must cutback overall cost.."

So they laid off the night watchman.

NOW slowly, let it sink in.

Quietly, we go like sheep to slaughter.

Does anybody remember the reason given for the establishment of the DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY..... during the Carter Administration?

Anybody?

Anything?

No?

Didn't think so!

Bottom line We've spent several hundred billion dollars in support of an agency...the reason for which not one person who reads this can remember!

Ready??

It was very simple...and at the time, everybody thought it very appropriate.

The Department of Energy was instituted on 08-04-1977, TO LESSEN OUR DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL.

Hey, pretty efficient, huh???

AND NOW IT'S 2009 -- 32 YEARS LATER -- AND THE BUDGET FOR THIS "NECESSARY" DEPARTMENT IS AT $24.2 BILLION A YEAR. THEY HAVE OVER 16,000 FEDERAL EMPLOYEES AND APPROXIMATELY 100,000ish CONTRACT EMPLOYEES; AND LOOK AT THE JOB THEY HAVE DONE! THIS IS WHERE YOU SLAP YOUR FOREHEAD AND SAY, "WHAT WAS I THINKING?"

32 years ago 30% of our oil consumption was foreign imports. Today 70% of our oil consumption is foreign imports.

Ah, yes -- good ole bureaucracy.

3 comments:

Michael Tobis said...

Your story is great but was never entirely true.

DOE is the successor to the Atomic Energy Commission and was primarily intended to manage both civilian and military nuclear programs, and to support big science on scales that university research programs could not support ("big science").

These are legitimate functions of government in my opinion/

Of course, "energy" is an overriding theme, but DOE is a research institution, not a corporation. Whether DOE inventions get commercialized is up to the marketplace and its regulators, not to DOE.

There's plenty wrong with DOE, but oversimplifying its mission in this way doesn't help fix it.

Alex Trembath said...

In his book Power Loss, Richard F. Hirsh details the steps the Carter administration took to respond to gas lines, oil embargoes, and increasing energy insecurity. The programs of regulation and innovation saw early signs of success, with the implementation of PURPA and the National Energy Plan. Specifically, Section 210 of PURPA "opened the electricity generation market to independent electricity power companies and ended the monopoly control enjoyed by regulated utilities" (Hirsh, 73).

In essence, PURPA opened up the electricity generation market to COMPETITION. This was combined with Carter's National Energy Plan, which called for efficiency, conservation, electrification, and investment in renewable energy technology (initially solar, gas, cogeneration, and wind). The Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) set up a national agenda for achieving energy independence, built on technology policy, conservation programs, and utility rate structures and competition.

Had these initiatives been pursued more aggressively, it is likely that energy use in the United States would more closely resemble energy use in California, where energy use/capita/GDP has not risen in 30 years, despite a booming economy and population. This, argues Hirsh, is a result of policies implemented around the time of the "birth" of the DoE.

We can blame other factors for the rise in our dependence on foreign oil - casting all the blame on the DoE makes no sense. Tripling of population, suburban sprawl, increased interstate commerce, agricultural developments, not to mention the sway oil companies hold with our political representatives. It's also well documented that US domestic oil production peaked in 1970, and to deal with the above factors, foreign oil became a much bigger part of the mix. To blame "bureaucracy" by singling out the failed (but continuing) mission of the DoE just doesn't make sense to me.

DFB said...

The Rant reminds me of Dr. Seuss, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You are?
http://finance.ba.ttu.edu/bauguess/FIN4323/dr.seuss.htm

I agree in most regards with the previous comments. The argument oversimplifies the issue. Congress has added to the mission of the agency since it was first created and manipulated some of its priorities. In addition, the agency has taken on a big role as research institution and funder for all sorts of things not related to foreign oil consumption/dependence. That's not to say it is a perfect agency, just that the rant is not really that spot on or trustworthy.