NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What Need For The Energy Department?

April 9, 1996

It is no secret, even in Washington, that the Department of Energy is an expensive, bloated bureaucracy without mission or justification. Critics are eager to abolish it -- but still it lingers.

  • Created in 1977 to manage the energy emergency, it still exists in an era when the oil embargo is nothing more than a bad memory.
  • It now employs 20,000 federal bureaucrats and an additional 150,000 contract workers.
  • At an annual cost to taxpayers of $15.4 billion -- a 235 percent increase since 1977 -- it is known as a bureaucracy without equal and an agency without a focused mission.
  • It is estimated that some 85 percent of its budget is devoted to activities that have no direct relation to energy resources.

The bulk of its funds goes to cleaning up radioactive waste from the nation's nuclear weapons facilities and overseeing storage of nuclear waste. This current primary mission has become the agency's greatest failure.

  • There are 26 nuclear power plants nationwide that will run out of storage space for spent nuclear fuel by 1998 -- the very year DOE is required to begin accepting waste at an interim storage facility.
  • Although DOE has known about that deadline for 14 years, no temporary site has been selected, and a permanent facility is no more than a pipedream.
  • Through a surcharge on their monthly bills, electricity customers have contributed $11 billion to a nuclear waste trust fund -- which the DOE has already raided for $5 billion, without making any progress on creating a permanent storage facility.

DOE has spent more than $70 billion on energy research since 1977, but has made little of any progress.

Source: Sen. Rod Grams (R-Minn), "An Agency That's Got to Go," Wall Street Journal, April 9, 1996.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues