The Department of Energy has been moribund practically since the day it was born, in part because the President who created it, Jimmy Carter, became so discredited he wasn't even asked to speak at his party's convention this week, despite two Nobel Peace Prizes.
It was designed to implement an industrial policy, but instead it became a political dumping ground, staffed by businessmen under Republicans and party hacks under Democrats.
We can't afford that now.
The Department of Energy must deliver research and policy to guide public and private investment toward a hydrogen economy. Since people really began recognizing the priority we have seen scam-after-scam-after-scam get funding, get publicity, and get power.
- Ethanol is a scam. It raises food prices, and costs more in energy to produce than it delivers.
- Clean coal is a lie. The technology does not exist, yet. It might one day, but until it does new coal investments are counter-productive.
- T. Boone Pickens is a fraud. He wants government power, and subsidies, to turn West Texas into his own fiefdom, stealing and selling its water, running roughshod over property rights with special eminent domain laws.
- Wind efforts are being wasted. Power lines lose half the power getting it to market. There is, as yet, no infrastructure to turn that power into hydrogen and get it to market.
That's not all. Nuclear power is making a comeback, even though we still don't know what to do with the waste, or even how to protect it against dirty bomb makers. Drill here, drill now advocates threaten to seize the capital we need to make the future and re-enslave us to the past.
I have a very simple plan for the next Energy Secretary:
- Research. We need hard numbers on the total costs of various forms of energy development. We need to know all the externalities so capital can be used efficiently. This is the best possible subsidy we can give to industry, the information that will help them make the most money in the least amount of time with the least amount of waste.
- Publicity. The Energy Department needs to become the propaganda department for the War Against Oil, delivering the help people need to enlist in the fight. This includes a demand that hydrogen users practice water recycling. Don't vent the water out of the car. Get it into the municipal system.
- Planning. The Energy Department needs to lead a complete re-design of the nation's electrical grid, adding intelligence, driving investments in more-efficient high power lines, building infrastructure that enables companies to buy as well as sell power and develop a hydrogen delivery system.
None of this is outside the agency's original mission. But that mission has been ignored and its time has come.
If America doesn't turn around its energy infrastructure investments over the next four years, it will lose any hope of overhauling China, or of saving Florida.
I'm not naming names here, but I'm sure Al Gore can offer some.