Chu creates team to distribute stimulus cash “wisely but also quickly”

Greenwire (subs. req’d) reports:

The Energy Department has created a “special organization” to distribute $40 billion contained in the economic stimulus package for energy projects, Secretary Steven Chu said today.

“It’s a challenge and something we take very seriously: how to spend that money wisely but also quickly,” Chu told reporters after speaking at DOE’s National Electricity Delivery Forum in Washington. Chu said he has assembled a team to start streamlining ways of delivering the cash. “We are looking at everything,” he said.

Leading the advisory team is Matt Rogers, director at McKinsey & Co.’s San Francisco office, Chu said. Rogers consults in many fields, including electric power, oil and gas, and private equity, as well as strategic transformations for industrial companies. Rogers is also a leader of McKinsey’s North American Petroleum Practice.

This is a very encouraging sign that the Administration takes this seriously, since they have a staggering amoung of clean tech to deploy (see “Progressives, Obama keep promise to jumpstart clean energy, economy“). The story continues:

Other members of President Obama’s Cabinet are also preparing to spend money quickly, Chu said. Carol Browner, who oversees White House efforts on energy and the environment, and leaders of the Interior and Agriculture departments, U.S. EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality have been discussing how to align federal regulatory requirements for making projects “shovel-ready,” Chu said.

Several lawmakers and industry officials have expressed concern about DOE’s ability to distribute the money, given its historic inefficiency and currently empty undersecretary and assistant secretary posts. Most notably, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has lamented DOE’s inability to distribute loan guarantees for advanced clean energy technology created in the 2005 energy policy law and hinted he is considering snatching the program from DOE.

In response to such criticisms, Chu said DOE’s goal is to “start cutting checks” for the first loan guarantees by the end of April or beginning of May. He said he has reduced the loan-guarantee paperwork from 1,000 pages to about 50. “You don’t need 1,000 pages to show this is a suitable loan,” he said.

DOE is also concentrating on billions for supporting electricity transmission and distribution projects, which are a “key part of the economic recovery package,” Chu said.

Several provisions of the stimulus bill signed by Obama yesterday increase funding for the electric grid, including $6 billion in loan-guarantee authority — which is also available for renewable energy and advanced biofuel projects, $6.5 billion for the Bonneville Power Authority and the Western Area Power Administration, and $4.5 billion in matching grants for making the grid “smarter.”

Many of these investments can start in a matter of months, Chu said.

There are already Bonneville Power Authority transmission projects that have complete environmental assessments and could be creating jobs soon in the Pacific Northwest, Chu said. For other projects, he said he is working with EPA and Interior on speeding up regulatory procedures for transmission projects without “undermining” environmental and other federal reviews.

Chu said he has also started speaking to state officials to prepare them for $5 billion in weatherization funds — although that will be distributed largely along existing formulas.

Dan Reicher, director of climate change and energy initiatives at Google Inc. and a former DOE assistant secretary, said the department is still going to need a lot of help.

“The Energy Department has a mixed track record of moving money quickly and effectively,” Reicher told the forum. “We all need to help DOE. It’s basically going to take this whole room to help DOE to do this well.”

3 Responses to Chu creates team to distribute stimulus cash “wisely but also quickly”

  1. Wester Par says:

    DOE is going to end up being responsible for putting the entire electric car industry out of business if they do niot issue checks THIS WEEK. All the electric car companies expanded on promises (AND THE LAW AS WRITTEN) that the money was coming on an EMERGENCY BASIS at the end of 2008, now they are going out of business because their overheads are so high because DOE said to get ready.

  2. In his press conference yesterday, Secretary Chu acknowledged the long-standing role of pure science at DOE, but he also called for more “mission-driven” research directed to clear objectives as a response to what he knows to be an emergency.

    The conventional thinking regarding technology transfer has been the garage sale approach: scientists at universities and national labs spend public money dawdling around on their own research interests, then industry rummages through the results (somehow). Cart before the horse, in other words. Not a success so far.

    A better alternative for DOE in addressing global climate change is what has proven to be effective in the computer revolution: mission-driven applied science/engineering at Xerox Parc, Bell Labs, HP, Intel, etc. Not stuff you can publish in science journals, but important inventions like the mouse. The moon shot and the WWII radar and A-bomb efforts are other good examples of what we need more of, and what America is best at: practical devices for solving real problems.

    Enough string theory, particle physics, climate studies, sequestration, corn ethanol, amine scrubbing, and big fusion boondoggles. Let’s make things that work, for a change.

  3. coupeditor says:

    Carol Browner’s History of Discrimination and Retaliation at EPA.

    In 2000, a jury found that the EPA, under then-administrator Carol Browner, was guilty of race, sex, and color-based discrimination, and that Ms. Browner tolerated a hostile work environment. During subsequent oversight hearings of the Congressional Science Committee, the Chairman instructed Browner to clean up the working conditions at EPA so the next administrator wouldn’t get handed “a garbage can.”

    Despite promising to do so under oath, Ms. Browner never accepted the jury’s findings as EPA Administrator. She never disciplined any of the senior managers under her supervision at EPA who were implicated in Coleman-Adebayo v. Carol Browner. She never stopped the appeal process in the case. It was her successor, Christine Todd Whitman, in her 1st act as EPA Administrator, who announced that the verdict in Coleman-Adebayo would not be appealed, and that the Agency would accept the jury’s findings.

    Congress was so outraged by the conditions within EPA, that it passed unanimously in both houses the NoFEAR Act (Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation) 2001 and mandated that all Federal new hires be instructed in Coleman-Adebayo v Browner within 90 days, and that all Federal workers receive the instruction every 2 years.

    Apparently, being found guilty of discrimination by a jury of her peers, having Congress enact legislation to outlaw her administrative behavior, and mandate that all Federal workers be instructed in Coleman-Adebayo v Browner was not enough to derail Ms.Browner’s career, or to prevent the retaliation against Dr. Coleman-Adebayo from the EPA that continues to this day.

    These are not “allegations,” they are matters of public record.

    The core of the case in Coleman-Adebayo v Carol Browner was Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. President Obama is a civil rights attorney. The question of justice in this matter has not been adequately addressed, with Ms. Browner’s ascension back into the heights of power, while Dr. Coleman-Adebayo, who stood up for civil rights for all Federal employees was thrown under the bus where Rosa Parks, a generation before her, took her stand.

    The media need to start asking the president, Ms. Browner, and new EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, what the public is to make of this regrettable case of a whistleblower being vilified, while her tormentors, Carol M. Browner, and the staff she left behind at EPA are still retaliating, still discriminating against whistleblowers (who may be able to prevent poisonous peanuts from killing people), and still thrive within the EPA.