When the stimulus bill gets passed, the Department of Energy will find itself infused with a mountain of cash, possibly as much as $40 billion. How will the Department spend it? Selectively, carefully, intelligently researching each project and weighing its benefits?
Hell no! DOE head Steven Chu tells the Wall Street Journal he’ll grab the biggest shovel he can find and then start chucking cash out the door as quick as possible:
Mr. Chu: To really stimulate the economy and help the U.S. recover from this dire situation we’re in, my feeling is, a substantial fraction, a majority of it … you’re starting to cut checks within half a year to a year.
WSJ: So you’d like to be cutting checks within a year to half a year … with most of the money?
Mr. Chu: Yes. Now, there are things in the pipeline now. And so we’re trying to get those things out in a month. We’re essentially going back to the people who have been doing this … They gave us a scenario for an accelerated … it’s been in the pipeline literally for over a year … These are loans to energy companies. They gave us an accelerated scenario, maybe five months. We’re saying, “Tell us what you need to do in order to get them out in four weeks.” Because it’s in the pipeline. These are loans from the 2005 [Energy Policy Act]. Appropriated in 2006, and still no money is out the door. And here we are at the beginning of 2009.
Chu says he will do his due diligence, but it is slightly alarming to read him saying that he wants to get the cash out the door as quick as possible. Undoubtedly, there is a monstrous backlog of programs that could use funding. We just hope that the money is spent quickly and wisely.