Department of Energy

The Case for Solyndra
September 29, 2011

Ever since the Solyndra story broke, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. And … I’m still waiting. The Washington Post unearthed some e-mails suggesting that Obama Administration officials lobbied the Energy Department to expedite approve of a loan for the solar panel company, which eventually went bankrupt. Obviously that was a bad idea. But corruption? Impropriety? No signs of that yet. More damning information could still emerge.

Don’t Abandon Federal Clean Energy Lending
September 27, 2011

With the bankruptcy of the California solar-gear manufacturer Solyndra, the Department of Energy’s loan program has been excoriated for wasting tax payer money under suspicious circumstances. The program’s website refers to 63,000 jobs created with $38.6 billion of loans. Some, like those at the Washington Post, see this number and incorrectly conclude that the government has spent $600,000 per job.

Slow Down on the Solyndra Criticism! Of Course Government Can Foster Innovation.
September 16, 2011

The bankruptcy of Solyndra, the solar energy company that received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, has touched off the predictable partisan food fight, with the Obama administration on the defensive. The release of an August 2009 financial analysis commissioned by the Department of Energy suggesting that the company could run out of cash by September 2011 hasn’t made the administration’s task any easier. This episode fuels the growing sense that “green jobs” is a slogan in search of a policy.

How to Scale Up the Clean Economy
July 20, 2011

Great jobs, if only there were more of them. That, in a sentence, captures one of the main themes of our new report “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment.” And that’s why we need smart policies to overcome the financial barriers to scaling up the clean economy. On the first part, it turns out that a disproportionate percentage of green jobs are in decent-paying occupations that employ high percentages of workers without college-degrees, at a time when many of them are out of work.

Shale Gas Isn’t Actually Evil. But the Shale Gas Industry is Behaving Stupidly.
July 18, 2011

In the marquee scene from the 2010 documentary Gasland, nominated earlier this year for an Academy Award, a man is shown warily holding a lighter underneath his running kitchen faucet. The flame quickly ignites the tapwater, briefly producing a fireball in the sink. Something appears to have gone wrong—and the culprit, the film inveighs, is the sinister local shale gas industry. Gasland’s incredulous depiction of flammable drinking water is but one expression of the anti-shale gas sentiment that is increasingly permeating American popular consciousness.

Core Curriculum
June 23, 2011

In the fall of 2008, EnergySolutions Foundation, the charitable arm of one of the world’s largest nuclear-waste processors, began approaching nuclear utilities with an offer. Guided by a team of science teachers and industry p.r. staffers, the organization had developed a trove of materials on nuclear power for use in sixth-through-twelfth-grade classes.

The Trouble with MOX
April 07, 2011

Last August, workers at Japan’s now infamous Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant loaded the first batch of mixed-oxide fuel, or MOX, into one of their reactors. The event went largely unnoticed in the United States; but in Japan it was deeply controversial. Unlike traditional nuclear fuel, which is pure uranium, MOX is a far more dangerous blend of both uranium and plutonium (the latter is among the most carcinogenic substances on Earth).

Budget 2012: ‘Cut to Invest’ at DOE
February 16, 2011

The Obama administration’s FY 2012 budget is all about arguing--perhaps somewhat rhetorically given political realities--the role of investments in growth despite the imperative for austerity. Such tradeoffs are everywhere in the budget. And yet, in no domain are those twin stances more sharply visible than in the Energy Department (DOE) outline, which proposes a classic “cut-to-invest” strategy to maintain progress on key imperatives when retrenchment appears likely. Overall, the new budget request proposes growing the DOE budget (see a detailed press release and Sec.

America COMPETES: Pass It, Nevertheless
December 21, 2010

So it’s time to get this done. Late last Friday the Senate passed a severely edited version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 to continue funding for a number of science, education, and technology programs and agencies. That means HR 5116 now heads back to the House for a vote as early as today—a vote that, while in some ways frustrating, remains essential.

‘Wastebook’ Is a Waste
December 21, 2010

There’s a reason politicians are always loath to cut government budgets: It typically means hacking away at programs people like, and painful cuts lead to scary headlines. In Arizona, the state legislature recently cut off organ transplants for Medicaid patients, and the press responded with tales about sick patients who could die as a result. Not pretty. That’s why, when House Republicans pledged this week to cut federal spending by some $88 billion when the budget comes up for renewal in March, they shied away from specifics.