National Renewable Energy Laboratory – NREL for short. It’s the place where solar panels, windmills and corn are deemed the energy source of the future and companies who support such endeavors are courted. It’s also the place where highly paid staff decide how to spend hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars. And the public pays those decision-makers well: NREL’s top executive, Dr. Dan Arvizu, makes close to a million dollars per year. His two top lieutenants rake in more than half a million each and nine others make more than $350,000 a year. Energy expert Amy Oliver Cooke drove out to the site, which looks something like Nevada’s Area 51 with its remote location and forbidding concrete buildings. NREL had started a construction project and Cooke wanted to see for herself. She didn’t get far: a man in an SUV seemingly appeared out of nowhere, stopped her car, and told her to leave. ‘It’s top secret,’ said Cooke, director of the Energy Policy Center at the Independence Institute think tank. It was ‘top secret so we can bring Americans a better future.’” With its bloated budget and overseen by a $533 million a year government-funded management company, Cooke isn’t buying it. “NREL has given us two of the most significant boondoggles, one of them being ethanol and the other being (bankrupt) Abound Solar,” she said. “They were part of the team that pushed Abound Solar along. NREL’s taxpayer-funded management company has seen its budget more than double since 2006. REP. Ed Perlmutter CO. congressman, ties go beyond merely promoting green legislation and lobbying his colleagues for NREL funds. He has received $12,670 in campaign contributions from executives of NREL and its management company, MRIGlobal, a company that describes itself as “an independent, not-for-profit organization that performs contract research for government and industry.” Perlmuter’s father has served as a trustee for MRI and MRI Global during the past decade. Between 2003 and 2005, Perlmutter was also a trustee. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, NREL started in 1977 as the Solar Energy Research Institute, a Jimmy Carter-era response to the 1973 Mideast oil crisis. Its budget, then about $100 million, was slashed during the Reagan era. By the time Perlmutter was elected, NREL’s budget was $209.6 million. It increased steadily before ballooning to $536.5, a beneficiary of President Obama’s stimulus plan and a $135 million contract spread out over five years to construct a new science center. Its current $352 million budget is down slightly from last year’s $388.6 million. To handle lab management, MRIGlobal partnered with Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute, which describes itself as “the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization.” The pair formed Alliance for Sustainable Energy, a separate non-profit in 2008, for the sole purpose of managing NREL and installed NREL’s top executives as its directors. Despite record federal debt, municipal bankruptcies and a nagging global recession, those executives enjoy pay packages that are out of reach of most Americans who pay their salaries,
Dan Arvizu-NREL director-$928,069; Bobi Garrett-senior VP-$524,226; Willaim Glover lab director-$557,571, Catherine Porto senior VP-$406,339 just in 2010.
Tax documents show, Alliance received $532.9 million from the Department of Energy, a whopping $189 million more than they were paid in 2008. In 2010, MRIGlobal’s tax return shows DOE funding of $104.8 million, while Battelle’s tax return reported $4.55 billion in government grants. Agency is overseen by a management company. “I have no problems with the contractors operating the lab. They would do a much more efficient job than the government,” said Nick Loris, an energy policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation. Loris doesn’t like is the entire concept of placing the government in a role of making energy affordable. That should be a job for the private sector. In fact, the billions that have been siphoned into renewable energy have yet to produce a fraction of the promised return. Solar companies have been fraught with bankruptcy.
“I’ll tell you what’s pollution,” Cooke said. “It’s solar panels and wind turbines abandoned — things with toxic chemicals in them,” she said. Despite its bloated stimulus funding, there are signs of financial trouble at NREL. The company offered to buy out 100 jobs when its budget dropped between 2011 and 2012. Perlmutter blamed Republicans for the cuts and claimed NREL generates 5,500 jobs. Its direct workforce is listed at 1,700. He spent two years trying to pass legislation to give solar companies a break with bankers before successfully adding the language to the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.
He is co-chairman of the New Democrat Coalition Energy Task Force, part of the Financial Services Committee. Perlmutter has leveraged that role to keep alive a 20-year-old energy tax credit to producers of wind technology. That credit would have expired at the end of the year. But the Financial Services Committee produced a bill to extend the credit for another year, which carries a cost of $12 billion over the next decade. The Danish wind company Vestas, which has several Colorado production sites, announced on Nov. 7 that it will shed 6,700 jobs through the end of next year. Perlmutter blamed the Tea Party. “It is clean and it is the future of energy production,” Perlmutter wrote on his website. “Until the Tea Party took over this has always been a simple, noncontroversial tax credit.”
EPA pledged to push ahead with actions to confront climate change during a wide-ranging speech Thursday. “As President Obama said, climate change is a priority — and we are going to take action,” Gina McCarthy, the EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, discussed a list of emissions rules rolled out during Obama’s first term, touting them for their public health benefits and effects on tackling climate change. Among the rules were stronger fuel economy standards for vehicles, proposed rules for new coal-fired power plants and limits on mercury and other toxic air pollutants.
The agency has said its emissions rules would benefit public health, saving billions in healthcare costs. The agency also has said the more stringent vehicle fuel efficiency standards would save consumers money at the pump.
Moving ahead with emissions rules for existing power plants could be one of the EPA’s next actions on emissions. Environmental groups want the White House to impose standards for existing power plants, contending the administration has authority to do so through the Clean Air Act. McCarthy said tackling emissions on the “front end” — at buildings, manufacturing facilities and elsewhere — would help reduce emissions and save consumers money.
To do so, she said the EPA should offer incentives through rulemaking that encourage states, manufacturers and industrial facilities to upgrade energy efficiency and incorporate renewable energy.
Sources—watchdog.org, tori Richards, earl glynn, the hill, zach colman