Posts Tagged: Energy Department

Not winning the future in Greenville, Michigan

Don Lee of the Los Angeles Times has an excellent article on economic hard times in Greenville, Michigan, the former refrigerator capital of America. The town’s answer to losing 3,000 refrigerator-manufacturing jobs sounds like it was lifted from a Barack Obama state of the union address: conduct a large-scale job training program so workers can participate in a clean energy project. But, in an unfortunate irony, the Obama administration has provided little support for Greenville’s economic revitalization effort. (more…)

Energy Dept. will win the future later

Katherine Yeung of the Detroit Free-Press has a good piece on three delayed alternative energy projects in Michigan.  The companies involved are waiting to see if they will get a loan guarantee from the U.S. Energy Department. The projects are for a renewable energy park, a solar cell manufacturing factory and a cellulosic ethanol plant. Besides the long-term benefits of developing alternative energy sources, the projects “represent $1.2 billion in new investment in the state and more than 3,800 new jobs.”

Why is the Energy Dept. dragging its feet on supporting projects in line with Barack Obama’s desire to invest in clean energy? (more…)

When weatherization goes wrong

The verdict is in: Chicago’s use of federal stimulus money for weatherization was a glaring failure. The Chicago Tribune’s Kristen Schorsch and Julie Wernau had a long piece this weekend of the main Chicago non-profit in charge using federal stimulus money to weatherize homes. The federal Energy Dept. and state of Illinois gave the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County $90 million toward weatherization — part of $5 billion contained in the stimulus for weatherization. But, “As CEDA’s part in the federal stimulus program heads into its final months, contractors continue to fail in 1 in 7 inspections, and a federal plan to fix mistakes revealed in a blistering audit last year still hasn’t been completed.” (more…)

Is your energy efficient refrigerator running?

Brigid Sweeney of Crain’s Chicago Business reported that on Friday morning Illinois used $3.6 million in federal stimulus money to provide consumers a 15 percent discount on energy efficient appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers. Thousands of Illinois resident proceeded to buy all the available appliances — about 27,000 in 2.5 hours — with retailers making $25 million from the sales (a multiplier effect of 7x for federal funds). This “stimulus appliance blowout” comes after a similarly successful sale in April that used $6.2 million in money provided by the U.S. Energy Dept. (more…)

More money for giant X-rays

The Chicago Tribune’s Ted Gregory reports that the Dept. of Energy wants to provide an extra $300 million to Illinois’ Argonne National Laboratory to upgrade Argonne’s Advanced Proton Source, or APS, a “baseball stadium-sized” X-ray machine that has helped to develop anti-HIV and cancer-fighting drugs. (more…)

Winter Has Started And Homes Haven’t Been Weatherized

The stimulus bill meant a huge increase in money for home weatherization programs, where state governments get Energy Dept. cash to go into homes and insulate, seal leaks and install more energy-efficient heating/cooling equipment.  The New York Times’ Michael Cooper reports that the program is off to a discouraging start in Illinois — the Energy Dept. is auditing the state’s implementation of the weatherization program. Illinois does not have enough inspectors who monitor contractors and also lacks the money to hire enough people to administer the program.

Cooper reports that the Energy Dept. audit “underscored the challenges in taking a government program and supersizing it with stimulus cash.” But, more specifically, it underscores the challenges of working with a state that lacks either the money or institutional competency to aid Illinoisans who will be freezing in their own homes during the winter. It might be easier for the federal government to more directly help the people who need weatherization the most.

Green Job Blues

The Washington Post’s Alec McGillis had a great piece this weekend revealing that the $25 billion “green jobs” portion of the stimulus bill has, well, yet to produce more than a few dozen green jobs. It’s a complex issue but the crux of green jobs seems to be this: If you are first concerned about global warming or whether federal and state governments use energy in an efficient way, it’s a promising program. If you are first concerned about job creation, “green jobs” stinks. (more…)

Energy Industry Tries To Sequester Global Warming Dilemma

The New York Times’ Matthew Wald had an interesting piece yesterday about the Energy Dept. funding “carbon capture” — a developing process where carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming are not released into the air during energy production. The capture of carbon before it enters the atmosphere is best-known as the idea behind “clean coal” power plants. In theory, by capturing CO2 and sequestering it into the ground, coal-fired power plants can continue to reign as the producer of 1/2 of America’s electric power even after CO2 regulation.

Wald reports, though, that it might be much cheaper for the Energy Dept. to fund “clean natural gas” or “clean oil refineries” — not great news to the powerful coal industry. The idea behind the Energy Dept. grants ($44 million of which were rewarded last month) is that they will suss out what clean energy technology works and what either doesn’t or is too expensive to pursue.

Do Poor People Know About How They Can Benefit From the Stimulus?

The Washington Post’s Kari Lydersen had a good piece from this weekend about how implementation of the stimulus bill’s Weatherization Assistance Program is off to a slow start in Chicago. The stimulus bill gave  $5 billion to an Energy Dept. program that otherwise receives $450 million a year to provide insulation from bad weather to households that are no more 200 percent above the poverty level. Given Chicago’s miserable winter weather, you would think people would be lining up around the block to get the government to subsidize decent, energy efficient windows. I wonder how many people are not aware that they’re eligible for this subsidized home improvement.


The Wall Street Journal’s Neil King looks at all the “czars” in the Barack Obama White House, after green jobs czar Van Jones was pressured to resign earlier this week. Some Republicans have been real critical of the czars and they have a point if someone like, say, Energy Czar Carol Browner is performing bureaucratic duties normally done by the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and/or Energy Department. Browner, after all, didn’t have to go through the Senate confirmation process.

But: Browner’s role is not to run the EPA or Energy Dept. It’s to push for Obama policies like cap-and-trade legislation and tougher fuel standards. Given that EPA, particularly, had a bunch of a pre-existing problems before the Obama administration, it seems wise to separate out the roles of cheerleading for new Obama policies and cleaning up the old EPA structure.

Where arguments from Republicans like California Rep. Darrell Issa do resonate are czars like auto czar Ron Bloom who run an Obama administration program (here, the TARP auto bailout) that relies on money appropriated from Congress. In making Bloom a czar, Obama conveyed the message that the auto bailout is too important to leave to the politics and deliberative sluggishness of the Senate. This made some practical sense. But it was also kind of unconstitutional.-MB