Right-sizing the Department of Energy

This is a fourth in a series of opinion articles dealing with the necessity of reducing the size and cost of a bloated federal bureaucracy that has demonstrated its ineffectiveness and its inefficiency. These opinion articles are adapted from an original position paper, America’s Path to Prosperity, authored by the American Issues Policy Group.

The mission statement of this department declares its mission is “To strengthen the integrity, economy, and efficiency of the Department’s programs and operations.”[i]  Nothing said about the United States. Nothing said about energy. In fact, the Department of Energy employs approximately 16,000, spends $30 billion in 2015, and doesn’t even make energy!

The Department of Energy has wasted $0-12 billion dollars on development of Yucca Mountain as a repository for spent nuclear fuel as Senator Harry Reid, D-NV, shut the project down.

The Department also spends $9 billion annually on so-called research. “With regard to fossil fuels research, for example, the Congressional Budget Office has concluded: ‘Federal programs have had a long history of funding fossil-fuel technologies that, although interesting technically, had little chance of commercial implementation. As a result, much of the federal spending has not been productive.’ That is a polite way of saying that these programs have been a waste of taxpayer money.”[ii]

The Department’s track record in funding solar companies is absolutely dismal. Remember Solyndra? That was $500 million taxpayer dollars down the drain. Remember A123 Systems?  That’s another $250 million wasted. Abound Solar lost $400 taxpayer dollars. Beacon Power lost $43 million taxpayer dollars. Ecotality lost $115 tax payer dollars. And the list goes on: Unisolar, Azure Dynamics, Evergreen Solar, and Ener1.  And the recipients of Obama’s flawed largesse: all Democrats who provided substantial donations to the Democratic Party.

The mismanagement of our environment by the Department of Energy is legendary.

“In 1985, a government report by a former environmental official at Energy called the department’s environmental, health, and safety shortcomings a ‘disgrace.’ In 1987, a department undersecretary testified to Congress that there was an ‘enormous legacy of misuse of the environment’ with respect to the department’s nuclear weapons activities. In 1988, a study by the National Research Council estimated that it would cost up to $100 billion or more to clean up the department’s contaminated nuclear weapons sites. In 1989, continuing revelations caused then Energy Secretary James Watkins to declare that the ‘chickens had come home to roast’ with regard to the department’s decades of environmental mismanagement.”[iii]

Conclusion.  The Department of Energy has been a colossal failure at just about everything it attempts to do. And it fails at a cost of $30 billion in 2015.


  • Contract with a major private sector consulting firm to plan and eliminate the Department of Energy within one year, to include a 100% reduction in  force.
  • Move any residual functions to the Department of Defense or Department of Interior.
  • Move all nuclear weapons energy policy to the Department of Defense.

Ten Year estimated savings:  $340.5 billion.[iv]


[i] Department of Energy, www.energy.gov/mission

[ii] CATO Institute, http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/federal-energy-failures

[iii] CATO Institute, http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/energy/energy-subsidies

[iv] Department of Energy savings calculated on 2015 budget of $29.7 billion, increasing 3% annually through 2024.

Related articles:

Right-Sizing HUD Part 1

Right-Sizing HUD Part 2

Right-Sizing The Department Of Education

Right-Sizing the EPA