04 February 2010


An email making the rounds shows photos of Democrat Party leaders and makes comments about the supposed failure of the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE). I will not post the link here.

The email poses a question about the purpose of the DOE and quickly establishes that people who read the message cannot answer it affirmatively about knowing its purpose. That’s sad. If that is true, then it can say anything to score political points and its readers will not know whether it is right or wrong. It depends on ignorance, political prejudices, big numbers, unflattering photos, and being anti-Democratic Party to play on that prejudice and ignorance. It is on par with Ronald Reagan’s threat during his successful run to eliminate the Dept. of Education. He made no attempt whatsoever to do so after in office.

Those same people would not yelp about the Dept. of Defense budget proposed for next year at $671 billion. Three federal departments will have budgets around $26 billion: Depts. Of Agriculture, Justice, and Energy. The numbers are big, but we have a huge country with 308.6 million people and the world’s most complex and largest economy. So, the large dollar figures are understandable. For eample, the Veterans Administration will be greatly expanded, to almost $56 billion to care for those who serve(d) in Iraq and Iran, many of whom have not received adequate care, especially for psychological traumas. It will also expand educational opportunities for veterans.

The vote, in 1977, in the House to establish DOE was 310-20. So, almost every Republican and Democrat voted in favor. Why? It consolidated functions pertaining to energy from existing entities around the federal government; e.g., the Federal Energy Administration and the Federal Power Commission, and others. Its purpose was to develop a comprehensive national energy plan. It came as a result of the turmoil in energy supplies earlier in the 1970s.

The DOE has many functions, including supporting research and development of clean-energy technologies, carbon-storage and clean-coal technologies (by the way Central City, Kentucky, is getting a really major coal-to-gas plant with carbon sequestration), regulating the nuclear weapons stockpile, and so on. I would bet that there is not a single function that the readers of the email would say is not necessary and good.

It is an exaggeration to say, as the email does, that health care, banking, and auto industry are being turned over to government. But, this is the way these messages “work”: exaggerate and play on prejudices and fears. I’d say that is a “successful” formula.

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