Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) supports eliminating the Department of Energy (DOE), because the employees get to take off holidays like Presidents’ Day. Leader of an expensive witch hunt of the department’s support for renewable energy, Stearns has previously called for the firing of the Nobel-winning Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. At the same February 25 town hall meeting where he questioned Obama’s birth certificate, Stearns agreed with a constituent who called for the abolition of the nation’s nuclear, fossil, and clean-energy brain trust:
STEARNS: It seems to me we could take one — The Department of Energy is one that I feel we should probably cut their budget in half.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No! We ought to get rid of it! Get rid of it! Don’t cut it, get rid of it!
STEARNS: I’ve asked for it. And I’m on a bill to get rid of it. You see, in public I try to be a little bit — but the Department of Energy was not — before Jimmy Carter we didn’t have a Department of Energy. Now we have this Department of Energy, it does about $30 billion in revenues we give them. And what are they doing to make us energy independent? And they’ve got thousands and thousands of employees. Every one of you would like to have one of their jobs. They start anywhere from 50 to 75,000 dollars. You’ve got a thrift savings account. You’ve got health care. You’ve got — You get off all these legal holidays. Presidents’ Day. I mean when I operated my motels and restaurants I never had a day off Presidents’ Day, or Lincoln Day. I never got any of these days off. I gave Christmas off probably, but even Christmas if a desk clerk got pulled I had to come in and help. I never got any of these days off. So I agree with you on the Department of Energy.
Stearns is correct that DOE employees get health care and national holidays. They include nuclear physicists, economists, mathematicians, and engineers, who could demand considerably higher salaries in the private sector working for oil companies or defense contractors. Under Republican rule, the House of Representatives — whose membership includes only 9 scientists and engineers — is only working 109 days this year.
The Department of Energy 2012 budget is $25.7 billion, four percent the size of the Department of Defense budget. Two-thirds of the DOE budget — over $17 billion — is for nuclear weapons, nuclear research, and clean-up of military nuclear research facilities. Another $465 million goes to fossil-energy research and development and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Only a quarter of DOE’s budget goes to clean energy.
With the small amount of DOE’s budget authorized for working to “make us energy independent,” the employees of the department have had a series of achievements, including:
— Thirty new plants for manufacturing advanced batteries or other electric vehicle components
— 6700 electric-vehicle charging units across the nation
— Energy upgrades in more than one million homes
— Reduced the cost of automotive fuel cells by more than 30 percent since 2008
— Funded technology breakthroughs by American small businesses