Sunday, September 20, 2009

What does the Department of Energy do?

Carl an avid reader of the Green Machine asked me to opine on what the Department of Energy really does. I call this department of the Federal Government the Department of Entropy because it has to be one of the most disorganized and chaotic departments of our government. The new secretary of energy Dr Chu has a lot to chew on to get the mess under control. If we can get the DOE to work on a real energy policy then the US may in fact lower its carbon footprint and lessen its dependence on foreign fossil fuels, the very Reason President Carter asked that this department be created in the first place.

32 years and many hundreds of billions of dollars later Dr Chu faces the same problem as the first secretary of energy James Schlesinger faced in 1977. James was also director of the CIA, and the secretary of defense under President Ford. At least Jimmy and Jimmy crafted an energy policy in the late 70s that was to draw upon oil from coal. Since then no policy at all has been crafted. In a future blog I will discuss the drawbacks of coal to liquids for a transportation fuel but at least these guys had a policy. The two secretaries of energy under GW had to be the two biggest waste of energy ever. Sam Badman sorry Bodman was our last secretary of energy before Dr Chu and old Sam is a disgrace to my Chemical Engineering profession. He should have been a magician instead of a PhD Chemical Engineer. His magic helped turn oil into a $150 a barrel commodity. Maybe Sam had an Uncle not named Sam but named Oillie.

Carl sent me the following in an email:

Subject: Funniest Joke Ever- well maybe not

Absolutely the funniest joke ever......ON US !!!
Let it sink in.
Quietly we go like sheep to slaughter.

Does anybody out there have any memory of the reason given for the establishment of the DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY ..... During the Carter Administration?
Didn't think so!

Bottom line ... We've spent several hundred billion dollars in support of an agency...the reason for which not one person who reads this can remember. Ready??????? It was very simple .. And at the time everybody thought it very appropriate.... The 'Department of Energy' was instituted on 8-04-1977 TO LESSEN OUR DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL. Hey, pretty efficient, huh????? AND NOW IT'S 2009, 32 YEARS LATER ... AND THE BUDGET FOR THIS NECESSARY DEPARTMENT IS AT $24.2 BILLION A YEAR



  1. Dear Lindsay,

    I’m unsuccessful in trying to add the following to your article on our “friend”
    Vinod Koshla, can you help, please? Many, many thanks. As a point of personal
    reference, we met several times years ago at Marin Professions. I still remember
    you holding up you pressure vessel for filling up celebratory balloons! Hope
    that you made a killing on it!

    "There have been many more than Vinod Khosla who have been sucker-punched/duped
    by the expectations of bushels of money flowing into their pockets by supposedly
    cashing in on “helping” the environment. There are very few people, now, who
    actually believe that ethanol derived from corn is a sensible business or
    environmental solution – save those who are still trying to fund their failing
    and ever-subsidized ethanol ventures before the jig is up! Why do we insist on
    using food crops for fuel when there are other options? For your reference,
    please review the following article on Mr. Vinod Koshla:

  2. continued

    Another field, Koshla is investing in – cellulosic ethanol – is most probably
    also doomed. The large scale of the conversion plants and the massive amounts of
    biomass required to constantly feed them are standing in contradiction to the
    low energy contents of biomass. The logistics just do not pencil out. A Japanese
    scientist has recently presented at a symposium on biomass-derived fuels that
    the threshold for transporting biomass is at 30km or about 18 miles. Another
    point is that the ethanol pocess can only convert the cellulose, but not the
    lignin, which is a large share of the biomass. This is burned in boilers to
    provide the process heat. This again show the bad energy balance this process
    has. So even if it ever can become cost competitive, it is environmental
    nonsense – too little energy from too much feedstock transported and converted
    in an inefficient way. We have calculated that with the process explained now,
    it is possible to yield more than two times the energy from the same feedstock,
    which reduces the transport distance by 50%.

    There is a scientist in Germany who spent over 30 years working for the giant
    company, Siemens, pioneering in the development of a waste-to-fuel technology
    that mimics what took Mother Nature 300 million years to develop but is now done
    in a continuous three minute closed-loop cycle. This tried and proven
    technology, called the KDV is an acronym which means low pressure and low
    temperature catalytic depolymerization – that’s a mouthful, better use the
    letters, KDV! Dr. Christian Koch has, in effect, dedicated his life’s work in
    finding a way to convert almost all organic waste into a fuel that can be used
    worldwide. In case of biomass as feedstock, the fuel is an ultra low sulfur
    diesel fuel oil, a synthetic oil because it’s not derived from fossil fuel like
    other petroleum products. Dr. Koch has managed to convert all matter of
    hydrocarbon wastes: waste oil, bunker oil, cardboard, construction waste,
    plastics, and crop wastes (corn, sugar cane, African palm, pineapple, banana,
    etc., etc.) into this high grade diesel fuel oil which has both an extremely
    high lubricity and clean burn rate – a far cry from conventional diesel fuel AND
    no additives are needed or being blended like bio-diesel or ethanol is; it can
    be used straight from the tap, as is!

  3. continued

    Here’s my gripe: for obvious reasons, oil companies detest this technology, and
    members of our esteemed U.S. “bureaucracy” prefer to spend $385 million for a
    questionable technology, while they will not heed the call to convert organic
    “waste” into a very useable, in many cases carbon-neutral fuel that is less
    expensive than “regular” diesel, has obvious environmental benefits, is socially
    responsible, and can create more U.S. jobs. Interestingly, our foreign neighbors
    to the north, east, south and west are more strategic, they immediately see the
    value of diverting their waste stream into diesel fuel instead of going to the
    ever over-filling garbage dump.

    Moreover and here’s the worldwide clincher: the KDV technology can process,
    convert the hydrocarbon content in pre-sorted MSW, municipal solid waste, too.
    Yes, it’s more complicated and more costly (a longer ROI, Return On Investment)
    than a fast-track bean counter would like to see BUT the global benefits are
    what we’ve all been waiting for, praying to see for many years AND this
    alternative energy development couldn’t be more timely.

    If you are interested in learning more, please visit and
    you will see that the future is here, now.

    Phil Boland"

    Phil Boland
    President & CEO
    Energy Visions, Inc.
    55 Rodeo Ave, Suite 25
    Sausalito, CA 94965
    +1 415.298.3582 Direct

    +1 415.499.8242 Office
    philipboland Skype

  4. I received this as an e-mail. I don't know much about the DOE except what I've been able to find on the internet. These are the Departments responsibilities:

    The Department of Energy’s overarching mission is to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States; to promote scientific and technological innovation in support of that mission; and to ensure the environmental cleanup of the national nuclear weapons complex. The Department’s strategic goals to achieve the mission are designed to deliver results along five strategic themes: Energy Security, Nuclear Security, Scientific Discovery and Innovation, Environmental Responsibility, and Management Excellence.

    I'm not sure how well they've done in reducing our dependence on foreign oil - the e-mail doesn't consider that our energy consumption has increased by about 75% since 1977, so it stands to reason that we would be importing more oil since we can only domestically produce a certain amount. We certainly haven't turned the entire United States into one big oil field.

    What I'm curious about is - Where are the 16,000 desks for the 16,000 employees?

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