The DOE vs. Ugly Reality

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Over at the Washington Post, Chris Mooney and the usual suspects are seriously alarmed by a memo sent out by the Transition Team at the Department of Energy. They describe it in breathless terms in an article entitled “Trump transition team for Energy Department seeks names of employees involved in climate meetings“.   The finest part was this quote from Michael Halpern:

Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy, called the memo’s demand that Energy officials identify specific employees “alarming.”

“If the Trump administration is already singling out scientists for doing their jobs, the scientific community is right to be worried about what his administration will do in office. What’s next? Trump administration officials holding up lists of ‘known climatologists’ and urging the public to go after them?” Halpern asked.

Oh … you mean like say the Attorneys General of a bunch of states holding up their lists of known “denier” organizations and tacitly urging the public to go after them? You mean like government officials of a variety of stripes ranting about how “deniers” should be brought to trial or otherwise penalized? You mean like having sites like DeSmogBlog making ugly insinuations and false statements about every known opponent of the climate party line? You mean like Roger Pielke being hounded out of his job by the climate mob?

Mr. Halpern, we have put up with just that treatment you describe for years now. Let me suggest that you take your inchoate fears and do something useful with them—you can think fearfully about how you have treated your scientific opponents for the last decade, and you can hope and pray that they are like me, and they don’t demand the exact same pound of flesh from you.

In any case, the Post put up a copy of the memo in the most idiotic form ever—ten separate individual pages, in image form without searchable text, printed sideways. Thanks, guys, it’s clear you’ve only posted them because you have to.

To save your neck from getting a crick from holding your head sideways, I’ve snagged them off the web and OCR’d them so we could all have a look.


Now, bear in mind that the Department of Energy has been the conduit for the billions of dollars wasted on propping up failing solar companies like Solyndra, it’s been the “Friends of Obama Funding Agency” … as a result, it’s not the Augean Stables, but it’s close …

So, let’s take a look at this already infamous 74-question memo. In it we’ll find two things: (1) just what is setting their hair on fire, and (2) whatever clues are there about future actions by the new administration. I’ll discuss both individual questions and groups of questions.

Questions for DOE

This memo, as you might expect, is replete with acronyms. “DOE” is the Department of Energy. Here are the memo questions and my comments.

1. Can you provide a list of all boards, councils, commissions, working groups, and FACAs [Federal Advisory Committees] currently active at the Department? For each, can you please provide members, meeting schedules, and authority (statutory or otherwise) under which they were created? 

If I were at DOE, this first question would indeed set MY hair on fire. The easiest way to get rid of something is to show that it was not properly established … boom, it’s gone. As a businessman myself, this question shows me that the incoming people know their business, and that the first order of business is to jettison the useless lumber.

2. Can you provide a complete list of ARPA-E’s projects?

Critical information for an incoming team.

3 Can you provide a list of the Loan Program Office’s outstanding loans, including the parties responsible for paying the loan back, term of the loan, and objective of the loan?

4 Can you provide a list of applications for loans the LPO has received and the status of those applications?

5 Can you provide a full accounting of DOE liabilities associated with any loan or loan guarantee programs?

6 The Department recently announced the issuance of $4.5 billion in loan guarantees for electric vehicles (and perhaps associated infrastructure). Can you provide a status on this effort?

Oh, man, they are going for the jugular. Loan Program Office? If there is any place that the flies would gather, it’s around the honey … it’s good to see that they are looking at loan guarantees for electric vehicles, a $4.5 billion dollar boondoggle that the government should NOT be in. I call that program the “Elon Musk Retirement Fund”.

Folks, for $4.5 billion dollars, we could provide clean water to almost half a million villages around the world … or we could put it into Elon Musk’s bank account or the account of some other electric vehicle manufacturer. I know which one I’d vote for … and I am equally sure which one the poor of the world would prefer.

7 What is the goal of the grid modernization effort? Is there some terminal point to this effort? Is its genesis statutory or something else?

Asking the right questions about vague programs …

8 Who “owns” the Mission Innovation and Clean Energy Ministerial efforts within the Department?

I love this question. Orphan departments are legendary in big bureaucracies … nobody owns them and they can do what they want. I don’t predict a long future for this Mission Impossible—Clean Energy effort..

9 What is the Department’s role with respect to the development of offshore wind?

Given that offshore wind is far and away the MOST EXPENSIVE of all the renewable options, the answer should be “None”.

10 Is there an assessment of the funds it would take to replace aging infrastructure in the complex? Is there a priority list of which facilities to be decommissioned?

Another critical question, about the state of their own facilities.

11 Which Assistant Secretary positions are rooted in statute and which exist at the discretion and delegation of the Secretary?

Like I said … these guys know how to do what they plan to do, which is to change the direction of the agency. All discretionary Assistant Secretaries must be sweating …

12 What is the statutory charge to the Department with respect to efficiency standards? Which products are subject to statutory requirements and which are discretionary to the Department?

Same thing. They want to find out what they can just cut, where the low-hanging fruit might be. I suspect this is about Obama’s ludicrous CAFE standards mandating a 50+ mile-per-gallon average for all car manufacturers.

13 Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings? Can you provide a list of when those meetings were and any materials distributed at those meetings, emails associated with those meetings, or materials created by Department employees or contractors in anticipation of or as a result of those meetings?

Now, this is the one that has the “scientists” involved most concerned. Me, I think they damn well should be concerned because what they have been doing all this time is HALF OF A COST/BENEFIT ANALYSIS!!

This is a pet peeve of mine. You can’t just talk of costs in a vacuum. To do that without considering the accompanying benefits is scientific malfeasance. To do it as a policy matter is nothing less than deliberately lying to the public. As a result, I hope that everyone engaged in this anti-scientific effort gets identified and if they cannot be fired for malfeasance then put them to work sweeping the floors. Talk about “fake news”, the so-called “social cost of carbon” is as fake as they come.

14 Did DOE or any of its contractors run the integrated assessment models (lAMs)? Did they pick the discount rates to be used with the lAMs? What was DOE’s opinion on the proper discount rates used with the lAMs? What was DOE’s opinion on the proper equilibrium climate sensitivity?

Cuts to the core, and lets the people know that vague handwaving is not going to suffice. These folks want actual answers to the hard questions, and they’ve definitely identified the critical points about the models.

15 What is the Department’s role with respect to JCPOA? Which office has the lead for the NNSA?

The JCPOA is usually a “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”. In this case, however, it refers to the Iran nuclear deal, and is an  interesting question. The NNSA is the National Nuclear Security Adminstration.

16 What statutory authority has been given to the Department with respect to cybersecurity?

Critical in these times.

17 Can you provide a list of all Schedule C appointees, all non-career SES employees, and all Presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation? Can you include their current position and how long they have served at the Department?

Here’s the deal. It’s basically impossible to fire a government worker unless they held up a bank and were caught in the act, and even then you’d have to have full-color video to make it stick. Public employee unions are among the world’s stupidest and most destructive idea … the government unions use their plentiful funds to affect the election of the people who set their pay scale. Yeah, that should go well …

BUT … if you can get rid of their position, then you’re not firing them, you just don’t have further work for them. They are trying to figure out who they can cut. Hair is catching fire on all sides with this one.

18 Can you offer more information about the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge?

Never heard of it, but then I never heard of a lot of things in this memo … which just shows that the memo makers did their homework. Turns out that the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge is another clumsy attempt to get Electric Vehicles Everywhere regardless of the fact that the public mostly doesn’t want Electric Vehicles Anywhere.

19 Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the Conference of the Parties (under the UNFCCC) in the last five years?

An IPCC Conference of Parties is much more party than conference—it’s basically an excuse to party in some lovely location (think Bali, Cancun, …), with the party occasionally interrupted by the pesky conference. It is a meaningless exercise which ends up with an all-night session that finishes by announcing that everyone has signed on to the latest non-binding fantasy about how to end the use of fossil fuels, drive up energy prices, and screw the poor. And yes, if I were appointed to run the DOE, I would definitely want to know who has gone on these useless junkets.

Now, I know that people are going to complain about “scientific freedom” regarding the memo asking who worked on what … but if you don’t want to tell the incoming team what you’ve worked on … why not? Are you ashamed of what you’ve done? Look, every job I’ve had, if a new boss came in, they wanted to know what I had worked on in the past, and I simply answered them honestly. Scientists are no different.

Finally, government scientists presumably work on what their agency directs them to work on … so the issue of “scientific freedom” is way overblown in this context where they are NOT free to work on projects of their own choice.

20 Can you provide a list of reports to Congress or other external parties that are due in 2017? 

Again, a critical question when you take over an organization—what deliverables is it contracted to produce? Like I said, these folks know what they are doing.

21 Can you provide a copy of any Participation Agreement under Section 1221 of EP Act signed by the Department?

We’re way down in the weeds now. This section of the EP Act allows three or more contiguous states to establish a regional transmission siting agency. Not sure why they’ve asked this, but it does add to their knowledge of the projected vague transmission grid actions, which appears like it could be a big money drain.

22 What mechanisms exist to help the national laboratories commercialize their scientific and technological prowess?

A forgotten task at the DOE, I’m sure.

23 How many fusion programs, both public and private, are currently being funded worldwide?

Huh … looking for duplication of activities.

24 Which activities does the Department describe as commercialization programs or programs with the specific purpose of developing a technology for market deployment?

Incoming administrations, if they’re smart, look for low hanging fruit. In this case if there are commercial programs near completion, they can be fast-tracked to provide evidence that the new administration is on the job.

25 Does or can the Department delineate research activities as either basic or applied research?

This is a critical distinction, and one that they possibly have never made.

26 Can you provide a list of all permitting authorities (and their authorizing statutes) currently held by DOE and their authorizing statutes?

Again, the local denizens will not like this a bit, more hair will spontaneously ignite. In part any bureaucracy prides itself on its power to stop people from doing things … in other words, they demand a permit for an action and then they can refuse to issue it. This asks not just for the permitting authorities, but once again for their authorizing statutes. Again, the easiest way to get rid of something is to show it was built without authorization …

27 Is there a readily available list of any technologies or products that have emerged from  programs or the labs that are currently offered in the market without any subsidy?

Quite possibly not, but if so it would be an interesting list.

28 Are there statutory restrictions related to reinvigorating the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management?

29 Are there any statutory restrictions to restarting the Yucca Mountain project?

These two questions show us that they plan to restart Yucca Mountain, the shuttered nuclear waste repository.

30 Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan?

Because you can kiss them goodbye along with the CAP …

31 If DOE’s topline budget in accounts other than the 050 account were required to be reduced 10% over the next four fiscal years (from the FY17 request and starting in FY18), does the Department have any recommendations as to where those reductions should be made?

This is brilliant. It’s like my gorgeous ex-fiancee regarding colors. She asks me what color I like so she can cross it off the list of possibilities … and rightly so given my color sense. This strikes me as the same deal. The new Administration asks where the current denizens would cut ten percent … then when they are told it, they know they might want to cut somewhere else … useful info either way.

32 Does the Department have any thoughts on how to reduce the bureaucratic burden for exporting U.S. energy technology, including but not limited to commercial nuclear technology?

Likely not … but worth asking …

33 Is the number of Assistant Secretaries set by statute? Does the statute establish the number as a minimum or a maximum, or is it silent on the question?

Assistant Secretaries are now on DEFCON 1, or DEFCON 0.5, their hair is totally engulfed in flames …

34 Can you provide a list of all current open job postings and the status of those positions?

35 Can you provide a list of outstanding M&O contracts yet to be awarded for all DOE facilities and their current status?

36 Can you provide a list of non-M&O procurements/awards that are currently pending and their status?

Open jobs, outstanding Maintenance and Operation contracts, non-M&O procurements, they want to find out just exactly what is the current state of play. It will also allow the incoming folks to see what last-minute hires they’ve tried to jam through before the changeover.

37 Does DOE have a plan to resume the Yucca Mountain license proceedings?

They may have shelved or previous plans, good to know if so.

38 What secretarial determinations/records of decisions are pending?

Have they made decisions that are not written down? If so, what? Man, these people are thorough, I wouldn’t have thought to ask that one.

39 What should the incoming Administration do to balance risk, performance and ultimately completion in contracting?

40 What should this Administration do differently to make sure there are the right incentives to attract qualified contractors?

An interesting pair of questions.

41 What is the plan for funding cleanup of Portsmouth and Paducah when the current uranium inventory designated for barter in exchange for cleanup services, is no longer available (excluding reinstating the UED&D fee on commercial nuclear industry or utilizing the USEC fund)?

Back into the weeds, proving that these folks have done their homework. Right now, those shuttered nuclear plants are trading uranium, a valuable resource, for cleanup … what happens when the uranium runs out? Who is on the hook for the costs?

42 What is the right funding level for EM to make meaningful progress across the complex and meet milestone and regulatory requirements?

According to the glossary, “EM” is environmental management. I’m not sure what the DOE is required to do in this, and that’s what they are asking.

43 What is the greatest opportunity for reduction in life cycle cost/return on investment? 

44 Describe your alternatives to the ever increasing WTP cost and schedule, whether technical or programmatic?

45 With respect to EM, what program milestones will be reached in each of the next four years?

47 How can the DOE support existing reactors to continue operating as part of the nation’s infrastructure?

48 What can DOE do to help prevent premature closure of plants? 

49 How do you recommend continuing to supporting the licensing of Small Modular Reactors? 

50 How best can DOE optimize its Advanced Reactor R&D activities to maximize their value proposition and work with investors to development and commercialize advanced reactors?

All of these questions are concerned with the regulation and waste disposal of nuclear plants, suggesting strongly that the new administration is interested in keeping existing plants open and licensing new plants.

Questions for EIA

EIA is the Energy Information Agency charged with collecting and maintaining energy-related data.

51 EIA is an independent agency in DOE. How has EIA ensured its independence in your data and analysis over the past 8 years? In what instances do you think EIA’ s independence was most challenged?

Now this is a fascinating two-part question, especially the second part. Basically they are asking, can we trust the EIA, and what pressures is it subject to?

52 Part of EIA’s charter is to do analyses based on Congressional and Departmental requests. Has EIA denied or not responded to any of these requests over the last ten years?

53 EIA customarily has or had set dates for completions of studies and reports. In general, have those dates been adhered to?

54 In the Annual Energy Outlook 2016, EIA assumed that the Clean Power Plan should be in the reference case despite the fact that the reference case is based on existing laws and regulations. Why did EIA make that assumption, which seems to be atypical of past forecasts?

Uh-oh … caught messing with the books …

55 EIA’s assessments of levelized costs for renewable technologies do not contain back-up costs for the fossil fuel technologies that are brought on-line to replace the generation when those technologies are down. Is this is a correct representation of the true levelized costs?

Since this is an issue I’ve raised publicly in my posts on levelized costs, I’m overjoyed to see them ask it.

56 Has EIA done analysis that shows that additional back-up generation is not needed? How does EIA’s analysis compare with other analyses on this issue?

This seems like they’re talking about some EIA analysis that says that such generation isn’t needed, and asking them to justify it. If not, they are simply forcing them to admit that yes, backup is needed, and no, they haven’t been including those costs … good on them.

57 Renewable and solar technologies are expected to need additional transmission costs above what fossil technologies need. How has EIA represented this in the AEO forecasts? What is the magnitude of those transmission costs?

Again, excellent questions that the EIA has not been posing, much less answering.

58 There are studies that show that your high resource and technology case for oil and gas represents the shale gas and oil renaissance far better than your reference case. Why has EIA not put those assumptions in your reference case?

Yes, they definitely should put those in … but then from all appearances they hate fracking with a passion …

59 Can you describe the number of personnel hired into management positions at EIA from outside EIA and compare it to the number of personnel hired into management positions at EIA who were currently serving at EIA?

Hiring outside vs promoting inside … interesting question.

60 How does EIA ensure quality in its data and analyses?

61 Where does EIA think most improvement is needed in its data and analyses?

I’d love to see the answer to this one.

62 We note that EIA added distributed solar estimations to your electricity data reports. Those numbers are not part of your supply/demand balance on a Btu basis. Why has that not been updated accordingly?

Uh-oh again … someone finally asking the hard questions.

63 How many vacancies does EIA have in management and staff positions? What plans, if any, does EIA have to fill those positions before January 20?

64 Is the EIA budget sufficient to ensure quality in data and analyses? If not, where does it fall short?

More questions to clarify the fiscal landscape.

65 Does EIA have cost comparisons of sources of electricity generation at the national level?

Not that I know of … but then they may have them and have not released them. We’ll see.

Questions on labs

DOE labs are separate from the DOE itself … I knew the DOE had labs but I had no idea they had seventeen of them, viz:

National Energy Technology Laboratory at Albany, Oregon (2005)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at Berkeley, California (1931)

Los Alamos National Laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico (1943)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory at Oak Ridge, Tennessee (1943)

Argonne National Laboratory at DuPage County, Illinois (1946)

Ames Laboratory at Ames, Iowa (1947)

Brookhaven National Laboratory at Upton, New York (1947)

Sandia National Laboratories at Albuquerque, New Mexico and Livermore, California (1948)

Idaho National Laboratory between Arco and Idaho Falls, Idaho (1949)

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton, New Jersey (1951)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at Livermore, California (1952)

Savannah River National Laboratory at Aiken, South Carolina (1952)

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Menlo Park, California (1962)

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at Richland, Washington (1965)

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory at Batavia, Illinois (1967)

National Renewable Energy Laboratory at Golden, Colorado (1977)

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility at Newport News, Virginia (1984)

Let me say that as a businessman looking at that list, it screams “Duplication Of Effort” at about 180 decibels. Hence the following questions:

66 What independent evaluation panels does the lab have to assess the scientific value of its work? Who sits on these panels? How often do they hold sessions? Do they publish reports?

67 Can you provide a list of cooperative research and development grants (CRADAs) for the past five years? Please provide funding amounts, sources, and outcomes?

68 Can you provide a list of licensing agreements and royalty proceeds for the last five years?

69 Can you provide a list of the top twenty salaried employees of the lab, with total remuneration and the portion funded by DOE?

70 Can you provide a list of all peer-reviewed publications by lab staff for the past three years?

71 Can you provide a list of current professional society memberships of lab staff?

72 Can you provide a list of publications by lab staff for the past three years?

73 Can you provide a list of all websites maintained by or contributed to by laboratory staff during work hours for the past three years?

74 Can you provide a list of all other positions currently held by lab staff, paid and unpaid, including faculties, boards, and consultancies?

Well, it sure sounds like the gravy train ride is over, and the labs will be asked to justify their existence. I would not be surprised to see some closed and some merged.



My first take from all of this is that there will be a top-to-bottom shakeup of the DOE, with deadwood cut, permitting carefully reassessed, positions eliminated, labs merged, the EIA charged with giving real numbers, nuclear strengthened, and the climate nonsense moved way down the list.

My second take from all of this is that the people who made the memo are very good at their job. They’ve asked all of the right questions and then some.

However, I don’t find in this anything to support the claim that the new Administration is looking to hold up a list of scientists for opprobrium, or that they plan to interfere in the scientific process. As with every incoming Administration, they DO plan to refocus and redirect the overall future course of the agency, which will inescapably mean that the scientific studies will move in a different direction.

Finally, folks, lets get real. Every Administration has chosen the scientists it want to be studying things, and has told them what the Administration wants them to study. If these DOE scientists don’t want to be re-directed to study different things, this is not an infringement of their scientific freedom. Instead, it is part of the price you pay for being the government’s scientist—just as in any other field of endeavor you do what is directed by the people who sign your paycheck.

Overall, I gotta say … it’s about time, and it couldn’t happen to a better agency,

Regards to all,


AND … if you disagree with someone, please have the courtesy to QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU DISAGREE WITH, so we can all be clear on your objection.

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Gareth Phillips
December 10, 2016 2:24 am

Names? Don’t tell him Pike.

Ed Moran
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
December 10, 2016 2:51 am

Gareth, you have totally bemused our American cousins!
A beautiful reference, thanks.

Reply to  Ed Moran
December 10, 2016 2:59 am

Reply to  Ed Moran
December 10, 2016 3:03 am

Godwin’s law kicked in quicker than usual.

Nigel S
Reply to  Ed Moran
December 10, 2016 3:39 am

“Cold steel, Captain Mainwaring, they don’t like it up ’em.”
Corporal Jones RIP

Reply to  Ed Moran
December 10, 2016 5:03 am

Nothing like a few facts up ’em! They don’t like it!

See - owe to Rich
Reply to  Ed Moran
December 10, 2016 10:53 am

Interesting: re the Dad’s Army video at 2:59am, I live in England but when I try to play it I receive the message “This video contains content from BBC Worldwide, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds”. Bbbut I’m a BBC television licence payer. And so was my father, who fought in World War Two to provide me with numerous freedoms, one of which I would have liked to think was to be able to watch something my family had helped to pay for!

Reply to  Ed Moran
December 10, 2016 11:13 am

That video was not available where I am, due copyright restrictions. Try this version instead. It is a classic piece of BBC comedy, until comedy was outlawed by correctness.


Reply to  Gareth Phillips
December 10, 2016 5:04 am

Very good!

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
December 10, 2016 9:03 am

Surely it’s “Don’t tell him, Pielke!”….

Reply to  Manniac
December 12, 2016 7:30 am

LOL. Good one. 🙂

john karajas
December 10, 2016 2:34 am

You are truly a wonderful man, Willis!

Reply to  john karajas
December 10, 2016 2:55 am

Five stars is not enough!
BTW, what tool do you like & use for OCR’ing things that someone else has already scanned? (The only OCR tool I have comes with my printer/scanner driver, and does OCR as it scans.)

Reply to  daveburton
December 10, 2016 3:24 am

If it’s any help, I believe it can be done online for nothing. Plenty of agencies offer PDF to Word conversion, some good, some bad. Nitro is one I recall off the top of my head.

Roger Knights
Reply to  daveburton
December 10, 2016 5:07 am

HotScot: The PDF’s Willis is dealing with aren’t in their normal ASCII format, but are image files that can’t be converted to Word without first conversion by OCR software to ASCII coding.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  daveburton
December 10, 2016 9:57 am

If you still have an XP machine Adobe has released a previous full version gratis.

James Dixon
Reply to  daveburton
December 13, 2016 6:46 am

> BTW, what tool do you like & use for OCR’ing things that someone else has already scanned? (The only OCR tool I have comes with my printer/scanner driver, and does OCR as it scans.)
FreeOCR ( uses the Tesseract OCR engine and does a pretty good job for a free program. There are better commercial options, but I haven’t looked at them in years.

Reply to  daveburton
December 14, 2016 7:38 pm

Thank you, James Dixon!
D.J. Hawkins, wow, I had no idea this was out there! Is this it?
Hmmm… that’s version 8. Does it do OCR? The version history info for Acrobat on UntrustworthyPedia seems to say that OCR was introduced in version 9:

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  daveburton
December 15, 2016 4:03 pm

Yep, that’s it. Yes, it will do OCR. That’s been a tool in the full version of Acrobat for a long time. I don’t have XP on any machine at home so I’m out of luck. I believe it’s available at other locations that don’t require handing over personal information, but you may have to dig for them.

Reply to  john karajas
December 10, 2016 3:41 am


Reply to  john karajas
December 10, 2016 5:17 am

Yes, excellent initiative Willis. There is so much good news here, I can’t bear to read it all at once. Every question is too the point and well justified. Heads will roll.
They are not hanging around waiting for Jan 20th. This is so targeted these activist-scientists and mindless bureaucrats will be crapping themselves. From now on it will be the Union of Incontinent Scientists.

G. Karst
Reply to  Greg
December 10, 2016 10:56 am

Reap the whirlwind seems to sum it up nicely. GK

Reply to  Greg
December 11, 2016 2:29 pm

DOE Global Energy Storage Base
‘Port Angeles Landing Mall’, Washington state
50 kWh bank of Lithium-ion batteries.
The unit experienced a fire July, 2013 and decommissioned July 2013
Research Description: Smart grid and peak load reductions
More project information at:
And more information about the fire is online from Port Angeles news sources.

george e. smith
Reply to  john karajas
December 10, 2016 11:16 am

Well Willis, you seem to have turned over a rock (literally) and found a pile of worms underneath.
If I happened to be working for any of those TEXT-ile agencies, a questionnaire like that one would have me asking myself: Yeah ! Just what the hell have I been working at, and for what end purpose of benefit to America ??
It seems that DOE is NOT a synonym for DOD, where it may not be proper to ask the chap at the next desk what she is working on.
DOE it seems, everyone would want to know who else can I ask about this thing we are supposed to be working on, and what is the chance we will be successful.
I do think THE DOTUS to be, will be sharpening up the ” You’re Fired ” red pencil ready for January.
I read about half; and need to come back to the surface for air before reading the rest.
Thanks for the sideways shuffle Willis.

Reply to  george e. smith
December 10, 2016 2:33 pm

Was revisiting the thread and saw The DOTUS. Consider it duly stolen and plagiarized. Brilliant.

George McFly......I'm your density
December 10, 2016 2:34 am

Wow. This is going to ruffle some feathers

Reply to  George McFly......I'm your density
December 10, 2016 4:45 am

…and clean out piles and piles of bird poop.

charles nelson
December 10, 2016 2:42 am

I would like to live long enough to see some of these people be charged with fraud or criminal deception for their actions over the last twenty years. Surely someone should pay?

Bryan A
Reply to  charles nelson
December 10, 2016 11:16 am

They have not only attacked skeptics (den!ers) and driven them out of places but even the families of the more visual skeptics like A.W.’s
What 28 & 29 indicate to me is that President Elect Trump is planning to increase the potential for additional nuclear waste likely by increasing the number of nuclear power plants. Go green through nuclear energy

Reply to  Bryan A
December 11, 2016 9:25 am

You may be right, but my take on 28 and 29 is that now that Harry Reid is not around to block it, they will put it back on the agenda. If they are unsuccessful this Congress, well, the Dems have a slew of Senate seats up in 2018, including ten in state Trump won\, so they could try again in 2019 with a bigger Senate majority.

Phillip Bratby
December 10, 2016 2:43 am

This is brilliant and shows that the questioners are really on the ball. The civil servants won’t know what’s hit them. Maybe some of them will have to do some real work. It will come as a shock if they have to work like people in the real world, who have to add value or get fired.

Larry Wirth
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
December 10, 2016 10:59 pm

“won’t know what’ shit them”. Fixed it

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
December 11, 2016 8:51 am

I would like to see answers to these questions, but suspect the culprits will attempt stonewalling

Reply to  Leo Goldstein
December 11, 2016 11:07 am

Stonewalling will be acceptable – on their own dime.
Their replacements can answer or, more likely, move on to actually being productive – the way it works in the private sector.

Ex-expat Colin
December 10, 2016 2:47 am

Knock the post’s out (legs) and it collapses. Suddenly many don’t have a job. Very helpful post Willis…Thanks from the UK

Ian W
December 10, 2016 2:55 am

One of the suggestions put forward was that the incoming Trump administration should carry out a ‘forensic audit’ of the federal agencies. This set of questions appears to indicate that is what is happening at least with the DOE whose personnel probably thought that their byzantine infrastructure made them secure. This set of questions indicate that this ‘Landing Team’ will not be as easy to fluff as the normal political appointees. If every one of the Landing Teams is taking this hard nosed ‘3rd Party Audit’ approach the sprawling federal bureaucracy will be very nervous.

Reply to  Ian W
December 10, 2016 10:46 am

The DOE does not have congressional oversight, unlike other agencies. It’s Secretary answers only to the US President, which gives, and has given, it a lot of cover over the decades. Well, looks like the blanket is coming off. Publicly. Will we see the diddling that’s been going on under the sheets?
[I suspect, but don’t know, that one of the reasons it was set up (1977) to have no congressional oversight was because of the huge national security issue created by the oil embargo in 1973. The US military services worldwide (Navy, Air Force, Army) discovered that they only had fuel reserves of one day to max a week to sail the ships, fly the planes, and feed/move the troops. It caused an absolute panic at DOD and Sec State. They had not foreseen the problem. Oil became National Security Item #1. Commercial needs be damned, and it has remained thus ever since. Until then (previous admins) oil was left to the private sector to develop, control, and price.
And the objective became to use up every other country’s oil first, not our own. (For eg, the development of the Alaska Prudhoe Bay fields in the mid-70s was a military and national security decision to prevent Russia from using its new slant-drilling techniques and grabbing it.) Nixon’s taking us off the gold standard internationally in 1971 meant the USA could purchase oil from any country in the world for a keystroke (or the price of printing a $100: $0.07). That did two things: firmly established the USD as the reserve currency (all countries now needed USD to purchase energy needs from the Middle East). and two, set up refinery-building restrictions in 1979 that continue to this day.
I know this because of a private conversation in 1989 with retired James Schlesinger, the Secretary of Defense from 1973 to 1975 under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and the first Secretary of Energy under Jimmy Carter. He specifically used the term national security item #1, commercial the public’s needs be damned, he emphasized. The lack of congressional oversight and the ‘answerability to the Prez only’ allowed the DOE to act with Treasury in provisioning itself without congress butting its nose in, allowed siphoning of oil from other countries in a strategic way, and permitted the 10X price increase in oil then to hobble other countries’ economies.]

Reply to  MRW
December 10, 2016 11:08 am

The Russians can’t reach Prudhoe Bay field with “slant drilling” unless they purchase a lease from a current leaseholder.

Reply to  MRW
December 10, 2016 11:18 am

Do you think the Russian would tell, or ask?? Unless you could detect their drilling, they would drill as far as they could. But I imagine that modern acoustic systems could detect a rougue drill-head.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  MRW
December 11, 2016 3:04 am

The distance between Prudhoe Bay and Naukan on the Russian tip of the Bering Straight is about 630 miles. The record lateral was drilled on Sakhalin Island (a bit further South):

On 24 April 2015 the world’s longest borehole was drilled and completed from the Orlan Platform in the Chayvo Field, Sakhalin-1 Project with a total measured depth of 13,500m (44,294ft) and a horizontal displacement of 12,030m (39,469ft)

Only about 622 miles to go…

Reply to  MRW
December 11, 2016 11:58 am

[I tried replying to these comments three times and gave up. For some reason wouldn’t take, altho’ my other comments below did. Will try again.]
@It doesn’t add up…
Only about 622 miles to go…
Whatevah. I’m telling you what SecDef and SecDOE James Schlesinger said were the govt’s (and military’s) concerns at the time; the reason why they allowed the drilling to go through.

Correct. That was at the height of the Cold War; we made all sorts of assumptions about the USSR’s strengths and motivations then. Paranoia reigned. The ‘Prudhoe Bay fields’ were massive. They extended in specific ‘silos’ from the Chukchi Sea to well northeast of Prudhoe in the arctic ocean, shaped like huge tear-drop shaped blackheads, not fields shaped like dumping mercury on a tabletop. They only brought in one or two. They capped the others they found.

Reply to  MRW
December 11, 2016 11:59 am

[I tried replying to these comments three times and gave up. For some reason wouldn’t take, altho’ my other comments below did. Will try again.]
@It doesn’t add up…
Only about 622 miles to go…
Whatevah. I’m telling you what SecDef and SecDOE James Schlesinger said were the govt’s (and military’s) concerns at the time; the reason why they allowed the drilling to go through.

Reply to  MRW
December 11, 2016 12:10 pm

It was the height of the Cold War. We made all sorts of assumptions about USSR strengths and motivations then…a Russki hiding under every DC pot, etc. The Soviet leadership was tough and unyielding; Gorbachev was 10-15 years later. In hindsight, paranoia reigned.
The Prudhoe Oil area fields were massive. There were finds from the Chukchi Sea to well northeast of Prudhoe way out in the Arctic Ocean. Another thing–and I don’t understand the geological importance of this–these other finds were tear-drop shaped, like blackheads, not amorphous fields like mercury dumped on a countertop, defined by the rock around them.

Reply to  MRW
December 11, 2016 1:38 pm

Having suffered under the Carter Administration I would guess the reason for not providing oversight was to permit stealing tax money. Even some Democrats objected to the waste, fraud and abuse of Federal money. Easy to play when no one knows what you are doing.

Raymond Swenson
Reply to  MRW
December 12, 2016 7:16 pm

The DOE gets its funding through the annual appropriations by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act, the same law that funds DOD. There are oversight committees in the House and Senate, which require DOE leaders to testify aboutntheir programs and budget.

December 10, 2016 2:56 am

As an ex-Australian public servant, I thought this is wonderful. Think I will refer it to some of our politicians, so that they can consider suitable questions of Ministers. It is lovely to see someone asking the questions that need to be asked. With a bit of luck, the questions will be answered truthfully. If so, most of the people concerned will keep their jobs. If not, if there are refusals to answer questions, heads should roll. I would think that for quite a few questions the answer is “We don’t know. We will try to find out.”

Robert Northrop
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 5:09 am

Willis, in your view why were the questions phrased “can you provide” instead of “please provide”. It seems to me too easy to say no. Maybe it is because it isn’t yet Jan. 20th and they don’t have the power to demand answers. I have written RFPs with requirements not questions.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 6:11 am

I suspect “can you provide” may be a veiled way of insinuating that the agencies may not be keeping track of things they should be keeping track of. If they say “no”, they are admitting some degree of incompetence.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 6:13 am

“can you provide”
any answer other than “yes” shows where the problems lie, and a yes answer commits you to delivering.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 7:30 am

Willis, what gets me is Obama’s DOE gave the Molten Salt Reactor to China who aims to own our invention from the 1950s at ORNL. Nuclear energy 1/3 the cost to build in 1/4 of the time due to low pressure, no water cooling and inherent safety. Insane, that is a Dual Use (military) technology.
With its high thermal working temp can be used for emission free Petrochemical process and coal to clean fuel conversion and desalination.
I would move Wind money to a crash program on the MSR.

bit chilly
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 7:50 am

spot on ferd. i especially look forward to the last set of questions being answered. wonder how many help maintain places like the sierra club website and skeptical science while at work on the tax payer dollar. we desperately need something like this in the uk.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 11:22 am

[molten salt reactor]. Do you have evidence or a link for that? I am unaware of any such deal.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 2:47 pm

The investigations, and legally all transfers of real property in the government involve investigations, always start on a friendly note. Even second and third series of questions will stay polite.
The new guy coming in, and his boss, need to know exactly what, where and who are being transferred. Down to the nickel if possible.
All areas of serious concerns should be easily spotted in the answers to the questionnaires.
The new boss can deal with organizational and directive issues directly.
Areas where funds or real property are unknown or known missing, tend to be areas where serious investigators are sent.
Again, their questions will be polite.
When they come back again and start asking pointed questions; On XX day, when XX was implemented, what was your role… That’s when it is going to get rough; unless, they already have plenty of evidence, in which case you’ll wear handcuffs or get escorted to the door.
Few things in life are more dangerous than a friendly smiling investigator who is careful and meticulous at reconstructing events and accounts.
One of the nicest gentlemen I knew was called Dr. Doom, because so many he very pleasantly investigated lost their jobs or were arrested as a result. He was such a nice guy, he hated the nickname the field gave him.
The questions, as Willis notes above, are darned good; but are the questions that should be asked before any person is asked to accept a job of such magnitude.
Both the person getting the job and his boss, have every right to know exactly what they are getting; in terms they personally understand.
We, as citizens, also have a right to know the value and accounts along with liabilities.
After all, how can we tell if they’re doing a good job or not?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 3:15 pm

“Robert Northrop December 10, 2016 at 5:09 am
Willis, in your view why were the questions phrased “can you provide” instead of “please provide”. It seems to me too easy to say no.”

Oh, aye; one can state No!
A temporary avoidance, at best. Provided there is a D&mn good reason why the answer is no.
At worst, not only will the questions get answered, but someone else will dig up the answers. While the normal primary respondent considers new occupations or perhaps just new quarters and position. Say, Fairbanks, Guam or some other select place.
These questionnaires are not the time, method or place for obfuscation, obstruction or falsehoods.
One boss of mine used to say: “If you hate to travel, you will travel, if you love travel, you’ll never travel again, If you like the outdoors, you’ll stay in the deepest basement we have, if you hate the outdoors, you’ll never step inside, if you’re afraid of heights, you’ll work in the tallest buildings…” Even other bosses avoided ticking him off.
Another boss of mine fired people and then fought their reinstatement, in the courts for years. Not many people were willing to endure three-four or more years while court cases wind through the court.
Especially when most of these court fights between job and employee are only sent to a mediator who is supposed to find common ground; another time ticking bureaucracy.
Guess which Boss I always and immediately committed to writing everything said between us, then forwarded it to him for official approval, before working on any ‘new’ chore? He was as untrustworthy as it sounds.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 11, 2016 7:58 am

R…here is the link to the ORNL site
Please realize this is for dual use technology (as in Military) which makes this deal illegal. The MSR was first developed for a Nuclear Bomber powerplant in the early 50s.

Reply to  dudleyhorscroft
December 10, 2016 3:20 am

I’m sure Malcolm Roberts (One Nation) will be onto it.

Reply to  dudleyhorscroft
December 10, 2016 4:37 am

funny you should say that 😉
I just sent this TO Cory Bernardi with a suggestion WE need to be asking similar Q’s here too
especially right now with the power cos grabbing for ever more funding n taxes from us.

Reply to  dudleyhorscroft
December 10, 2016 6:08 am

I do hope that Myron is doing the same at EPA

Ron in Austin
Reply to  Brian J. Baker
December 10, 2016 6:55 am

Oh, my,. yes! The EPA is long overdue for a shakeup.

Reply to  Brian J. Baker
December 10, 2016 10:53 am

Myron heads the DOE transition team that produced these questions.

Reply to  Brian J. Baker
December 10, 2016 9:05 pm

When you’ve got the ball rolling, by all means, keep the ball rolling!

Old Woman of the North
Reply to  dudleyhorscroft
December 10, 2016 4:36 pm

My thoughts exactly! Fellow Oz

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 4:16 am

I’m sure that this action will be warmly welcomed by the DOE as it gives them an opportunity to clearly demonstrate all the excellent work that has been carried out by them over the years.
For too long they’ve hidden their light under a bushel so that their sterling work has gone unrecognised and unappreciated by the public and body politic at large; but now, no longer!
I’m sure that any disquiet expressed by some that this is an attack on Science has been taken out of context and I’m confident that 97% of concerned scientists are fully behind this memo.
Well done lads and lassies – big salary rises beckon in 2017 in recognition of your tireless services to science.
Many thanks, Willis, for sharing your summary of this very important and seminal document.

Reply to  RoyFOMR
December 10, 2016 5:47 am

I think you forgot the /sarc tag at the end there.
Most of us don’t need one,but we get the occasional visit here from those who need all the help they can get.

Pat Frank
Reply to  RoyFOMR
December 10, 2016 11:43 am

I work at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Menlo Park. We have been chronically understaffed for the work we do, for the entire time I’ve worked there (many years).
We are the world’s cutting edge laboratory in the production and application of directed X-ray beams to scientific studies. That includes everything from medicine to biology to geology to chemistry to physics.
SLAC has the world’s only free electron hard X-ray laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), and has perhaps the premier facility in delivering synchrotron x-ray beams to a world-wide research community, the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL).
It is also participating in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) that is being constructed just now in Chile. SLAC’s part of the project is building the 3.2-gigapixel camera for the telescope.
SLAC engages a large external research community of scientists, who arrive not only from all over the US but internationally. There is presently a large in-house program in research on advanced batteries and nano-material catalysts.
It also has a strong student intern program, which brings in young people from all over the country. They participate in research projects, work hard, and end up learning a lot; especially about having to pay attention to detail if you want to do science properly.
SLAC does public outreach and offers tours of the facility, and is enthusiastic about communicating its science.
SLAC’s web-site
LCLS’ web-site
SSRL’s web-site
LSST’s web-site

Reply to  RoyFOMR
December 10, 2016 12:45 pm

@Pat Frank. Some of what your lab does is within proper government involvement, some is not in your apparent mission, and some is iffy:

We are the world’s cutting edge laboratory in the production and application of directed X-ray beams to scientific studies. That includes everything from medicine to biology to geology to chemistry to physics.

High-ticket items for basic research – OK. For applied research, OK to centralize it; these may be something that an industrial consortium will not be formed (or such a consortium may pose anti-competitive problems in the market). But such should be funded by industry, not government.

SLAC has the world’s only free electron hard X-ray laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), and has perhaps the premier facility in delivering synchrotron x-ray beams to a world-wide research community, the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL).

Same – big ticket items, probably appropriate for government funding.

It is also participating in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) that is being constructed just now in Chile. SLAC’s part of the project is building the 3.2-gigapixel camera for the telescope.

Is this project really part of your lab’s mission? Camera development is quite a different beast from materials analysis (although of course a support role might involve analysis for quality control of the end product developed by someone else).

SLAC engages a large external research community of scientists, who arrive not only from all over the US but internationally. There is presently a large in-house program in research on advanced batteries and nano-material catalysts.

Again, a possible support role within the lab’s mission – but this is applied research, that should be funded by the people that need “advanced batteries” and “nano-material catalysts.” (Note, government may provide seed money for such projects – but only after a market analysis that makes it clear the seed money will be recovered, so far as can be projected. Did that happen here before the projects were initiated?) (Note #2, some of this work may be for other agencies – NASA and DOD come immediately to mind – but they should be funded through those agencies, not DOE – and do those agencies not have labs of their own to centralize administrative costs under?)

It also has a strong student intern program, which brings in young people from all over the country. They participate in research projects, work hard, and end up learning a lot; especially about having to pay attention to detail if you want to do science properly.

I waffle about things like this – they are a good investment, but tend to soak up taxpayer money. At the very least, private funding for such programs should be used as much as possible (and university grant budgets should be tapped, too).
In the end, please realize that I don’t particularly blame you – or even your lab’s administrators – for any waste or duplication occurring at your facility. The root problem is too much money in the Federal Government, and the ability of the Congressional nobility to hand out largesse to their particular swathes of the peasantry. (Which is why the Trump Administration is not going to get as far on the swamp-draining project as some people seem to think it will – these things are mostly spelled out in appropriation bills, not just the fiat of bureaucrats in DC.)

Reply to  RoyFOMR
December 10, 2016 1:08 pm

And to think, two decades ago my favorite Sci Fi RPG assumed that non Bomb – Pumped X-ray lasers would be at least a tech level above fusion power. ○¿●
THIS is the kind of science the US needs to be working on, not endless versions of how such and such thing MIGHT be effected by the change in local weather that COULD come from a POSSIBLE temperature increase that is the maximum output of some MODEL. It’s actually somewhat reassuring that the DOE does still support labs doing this kind of work.
Keep up the good work, Pat.

Reply to  RoyFOMR
December 10, 2016 2:19 pm

@writing observer, when private industry does stuff at a DOE physics lab, they DO pay for the beam time they use. The National labs are actually contracted so that commercial activity can go on and help defer the costs. Private industry also makes significant donations to the programs they use. And I can vouch for how the labs run on a shoestring because I contracted for two years at Jefferson Lab and there was no gilding there.

bit chilly
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 7:51 am

like it ? oh yes, tremendous article willis , right up there with your science articles.

Reply to  bit chilly
December 10, 2016 3:24 pm

A very good article Willis, I agree with most of it.
The only real point were I disagree is on the point of service jobs not creating real wealth. While it’s true that, on their own, a service providing job doesn’t add materially to a society, they do help provide a resource that is every bit as valuable – TIME.
Take the barber from your example. On an island of only 2 couples, you’re right. He wouldn’t provide enough benefit to offset the others having to provide his sustenance. But what if we increase the population of the island to 50 couples? Now we have a hundred people who need a haircut every month or so. Now, they could go on like the original two couples, cutting their own or each others hair. But that takes time out of each persons life they could be doing something else. Maybe only an hour a month, but with 100 people that’s 100 man/hours, a week or two of work for an average islander, depending on how many hours a day they put in. By having a dedicated barber, each islander is able to use their hour on more productive ventures. And because the barber is specialized in his job, he is able to learn to maximize his efforts and do a better job, faster then each person could learn to do in their spare time.
This is essentially true of any service job, whether it involves cutting hair, or cooking food, or even healing the sick. All are jobs that NEED to be done, and would be done by everyone if there wasn’t someone to do so for them. By specializing in these jobs, they can do them better and faster then we could, and they transfer the time needed to do the work to themselves, allowing us more time to do what WE can do better and faster. This is the fundamental advantage of job specialization. But it requires a job force large enough that all necessary jobs are covered, and that only enough workers are doing any job to the extent that is needed. This is of course an example of a market force, with the need for specific jobs being done effecting how much we are willing to pay to have them done.
This even goes for GOVERNMENT jobs. A government employee is (in theory) doing a job that needs to be done, and they can specialize in it to improve productivity. Unfortunately in many countries the number of government workers is NOT market driven. Instead their number expands until they consumes all the resources that they can aquire. It’s like if the chief of our 100 person island declared that haircuts are a fundamental need, and that everyone needed to support all the barbers regardless of how little work they each provided. Eventually there would be as many barbers as could be supported by the few actual workers left. (assuming the non barbers don’t revolt)
In fact, the only jobs that aren’t producing wealth (real productive work done, through the transferance of time) are those that don’t NEED to be done. These are predominantly Entertainment providing jobs, anything like being an actor, a musician, professional sports player, an artist, or even a video game programmer. While each of these jobs involves creating something we value, the don’t create Wealth, at least not as we are currently describing it.
Which isn’t to say that these jobs aren’t using the transferance of time and job specialization abilities I’ve described above. But what we are transferring isn’t our productive time, it’s our LEISURE time. And I think it say a great deal about just how wealthy and productive our society has become that we can have billion dollar industries (and all the man/hours that amounts to) based solely on what, when you come down to it, is our time to goof off.
By that metric, I’m probably ‘wealthier’ then any medieval King… well, at least a Duke. ^¿^

Reply to  bit chilly
December 10, 2016 4:51 pm

Think of it as a cycle: all work done by the public sector is at the base funded by taxes collected on the output of the private sector. Economist on the Left would like us to forget that only the private sector which uses capital and HR to produce goods and services customers actually want at a profit that is then taxed actually creates true economic wealth. These tax revenues allow governments to expand the public sector into ever more “services” -whether the tax payers actually wants/needs these or not.
The wages of the myriad public sector workers are thus ultimately paid for by the original tax revenues derived from the private sector, supplemented by the [recycled] tax revenues derived from the public sector wages. This is how governments have grown to represent some 45-55% of GDP in most developed economies since the 1960s. The problem is that this of course does not add up and the fictitious financial “perpetuum mobile” – a figment of the socialist big government mind – is not sustainable. Which is why without exception governments in Western “developed” economies have been running systematic fiscal deficits for the past 40 years and have accumulated public debts that in many cases [US included] are approaching or exceeding 100% of GDP.

Reply to  bit chilly
December 11, 2016 8:56 am

@ tetris
An excellent observation, and very true. And obviously whenever a government grows to be half or more of a nations GDP then it is using up far more resources then it provides benefit for.
It should be pointed out, nearly every service provided by a government CAN and HAS been provided by the private sector at some point in history, from basic utilities to schools to even the police. There is no intrinsic reason why public service government should be any less economical then if it were run as a business. The true problem is with the people running it. To many people are willing to accept a level of curruption and inefficiency that would never work in the private sector.
@ Willis
Hmm, the alarm clock as a service provider. An interesting point of view, but what work does the alarm clock do? For it to count as a transferance of time it has to do a job that you no longer have to do yourself. It may ring, but you still need to be the one to get up and go to work. And if you set it an hour early, it is still your choice to get up then. At most it improves the efficiency of the work you do yourself.
What the alarm clock really is then is a tool. Like all tools, it does no work by itself, but instead acts as a multiplier for the work you do with it. By using the alarm clock you are able to more productively use the hours in a day, just as a power saw let’s a carpenter cut more wood or a farm tractor let’s a farmer plow and plant more acres. But none of these tools will do work, and thus create wealth, by themselves.
Which begs the question, CAN a tool or machine do work by itself? Is there a point where the machine could create Wealth itself rather then just multiply the amount of wealth produced by a worker?
For an example, let’s assume we have a scientist who wants to have breakfast each morning. We’ll call him Doc Brown, just for fun. Now, he could take the time to make breakfast himself, and he could use a number of TOOLS, like a toaster, to make his cooking time more productive, but he has much better things to spend his time on. There is SCIENCE! that needs to be done. Instead, he could do what many of us do, and buy breakfast from a restaurant. He would thus be transferring the time he would have spent cooking to the workers there. Or if he has enough money, he could hire an actual cook to do all the work of cooking, cleaning the dishes, and even getting the groceries. Even more time transfered. But our Doc is a scientist and inventor, so instead he builds a machine to automatically cook him breakfast each morning (and feed the dog too, while he’s at it)
Now, is that machine just a tool, multiplying the work that Doc put into it? Or is it actually doing work (and thus creating wealth) by itself? And if it is just a tool, at what point of automation does a machine STOP just being a tool? Is a fully automated robotic car factory just a super complex tool, multiplying the work of a few people by an incredible amount? Would a true robot, able to do the work of a miner or construction worker, be creating wealth? And once we finally build self-replecating robots, does each generation just add another exponential on to the work done by creating the first? How would the work done by them be any different then the work done by us?
Anyway, just some crazy thoughts. I’m spending my leisure time, not my productive time right now. No wealth produced. ^¿^

Reply to  bit chilly
December 11, 2016 4:15 pm

Oh, one last thing. While I would argue that the transferance of time means a service job CAN create wealth, that doesn’t mean it actually DOES. Consider an example.
We have a nice restaurant in New York. Chefs, waiters, dishwashers, a maitre d, the whole shebang. And according to our theory of transferance of time the work they do allows more time to anyone who eats there, and thus allows a true wealth creator to create even more wealth then they could have made alone.
So, tonight we have two people eating at the restaurant, who are getting the exact same meal. The first is a auto worker, who is spending his hard earned paycheck on a really nice meal. We’ll call him Bob. The second is a highly successful business man. We’ll call him The Donald. Now The Donald is all about creating wealth. And every minute he doesn’t have to spend cooking his own food, washing his own cloths, cleaning his own house, or even driving his own car can be spent working and dealing. The Donald is a poster boy for the creation of wealth by the transferance of time.
But what about Bob? He’s getting the same meal, and thus is benefiting from the same transferance of time. Does that mean he also creates more wealth? Well, no. Bob already put in his eight hours today. And even if he wanted to use the extra time he got by not having to cook his own food to work more, the factory isn’t currently allowing overtime. In effect, Bob didn’t transfer productive time from the cooks to himself, he converted the cooks productive time into more leisure time for himself. And as we already said leisure time doesn’t create wealth, no matter how you spend it.
And here’s the real kicker, the cooks, and waiters, and dishwashers, and every other service provider have NO CONTROL over how the people they transfer their time to actually spend it, and therefore have no way to decide if their work will create wealth or not. In fact, the probability that their work creates wealth is inversely proportional to both the number of other service providers there are in the workforce AND to the amount of leisure time that the workforce enjoys.
Add in a masive government sucking in all the wealth that IS being created, and it’s a wonder there’s any left at all.

Reply to  bit chilly
December 13, 2016 6:33 am

As a capitalism advocate, coming from me this may seem odd, but it is true: It does not make any difference to wealth creation if the means of production are privately owned or public. The USSR made great quantities of steel and created huge national wealth increases, as did capitalist USA and kairetsu Japan. Wealth creation ability depends on a level of technology and choices to employ it.
Where capitalism wins is from competition reducing feather bedding and pushing innovation (not invention… properly used, innovation means the use and diffusion of new ideas across an economy. It doesn’t matter what new things you invent if they never get innovated into the production process). It also ruthlessly prunes bad ideas. Both government and business have very bad ideas, but government lets them grow to gigantic size while businesses die off if they do not self prune bad ideas.
In short, the only real difference to productivity is competition.
Per services: All human labor is coupled with capital stock in the productive process. Even if just shoes and clothes as the capital. (Or, if naked, the pole for the dancer…) You could make a case for all labor being a service to capitol stock. So what really divides “wealth creation” goods from service work product? Mostly the duration in time of the product persistence. The chef DOES manufacture a physical product. That meal will only keep for minutes, while a car lasts for years (or a flower garden months). IMHO, all are wealth creating (in the sense of life improving… and what else is real wealth?)
The problem is entropy. To increase in net wealth, the ratio of durable goods to volitile goods must result in a longer average wealth lifespan than lifespan consumed by entropy processes.
Now some goods (and services) leverage production to make more. These we tend to call tools. It doesn’t really matter if the tool is a hammer, a frying pan, or an alarm clock. They are just part of the physical capital stock. The more and better tools you have, the more product you can produce per unit resource. The more durable wealth we can all possess, and the more volatile wealth we can enjoy.
The goal of a sane economy would be to make as many durable tools as possible (including robots, and those giant robotic machines we call factories) so as to let us spend more time dining out and less time fixing hammers or building ploughs. (Folks afraid of automation miss that point).
Sidebar on taxes: As tax is added to a product, the value of economies in production drops. Eventually it is no longer an advantage to me to buy the product, but is advantaged to make it myself. Say a company, using lots of machines, has a 30% efficiency at making soup. If 35% tax is then added, it is cheaper to make it without the factory (and the tax) even though less efficient. For many goods, we are now in that state. I have started making home canned soups, since they cost me about 50 ¢ each, while range from $1.25 to $2 each at the store. I don’t particulary want to be a soup factory, but it pays me to do it. Now figure to get the $2 to spend, I must earn $4 so after tax, I have $2 so I can buy a $1/2 value can of soup. This is why no economy long survives once total tax (govt size TOTAL at all levels) exceeds 50%. It starts to pay most folks a lot to Go Gault and stop working for others while DIY blooms
Essentially, when too much nonproductive government is added to production, folks are paid to DIY even if significantly less efficient (or just can’t accumulate the post tax money to buy, so simply stop using that product). Then the commons decay sets in and the spiral of collapse starts. similarly, cut taxes, more is worth buying from others, more efficient production happens, and total production of wealth increases. The limit at present tech level is about % 18 to the Feds, a few more to State and local. Once at 50% total, collapse of the economy follows (that is actual take, not nominal rate).
So is your alarm clock creating wealth? I assert that is a “Mu!” question. It is a (simple) robot tool to increase your efficiency, be that creating wealth at a job, consuming work product at the cafe, or bypassing wealth consuming taxes via canning your own soup.

Reply to  E.M.Smith
December 13, 2016 7:43 am

You could make a case for all labor being a service to capitol stock. So what really divides “wealth creation” goods from service work product? Mostly the duration in time of the product persistence. The chef DOES manufacture a physical product. That meal will only keep for minutes, while a car lasts for years (or a flower garden months). IMHO, all are wealth creating (in the sense of life improving… and what else is real wealth?)
The problem is entropy. To increase in net wealth, the ratio of durable goods to volitile goods must result in a longer average wealth lifespan than lifespan consumed by entropy processes.
Now some goods (and services) leverage production to make more. These we tend to call tools. It doesn’t really matter if the tool is a hammer, a frying pan, or an alarm clock. They are just part of the physical capital stock. The more and better tools you have, the more product you can produce per unit resource. The more durable wealth we can all possess, and the more volatile wealth we can enjoy.

E.M. you start a little off, but do get back to the point.
The only thing of value is our ability to do labor. The more efficiently you can create value from your labor, the more wealth you can create. All ultimately all more work to be done in less time, allowing us to do other required work, and so on.
The more leverage your labor has, the greater it’s value is. Usually money, but power, image, etc.
A plow is more efficient than a shovel, and so on, but Bill Gates deployed the base OS that has transformed the world, all those businesses creating tools to make you more efficient, all the people in those companies, all that labor he has a huge impact on, and his net worth shows it.
The rest right back on point 🙂
Nanotech assemblers are due anytime in the next qtr century, the amount of new tech, the leveraged labor, creating devices that do even more. Computers helping humans design and manufacture newer more powerful computers for less money, designing robots that make the stuff (including more robots) for less.
We’ll shortly get to a point where most of our stuff can be made on demand on some box, and besides the raw materials (and how expensive is the carbon that goes into carbon fiber?) and the IP that defines the thing. And like software, there are people who build things and give it away.
As this happens, manufacturing as we know it now will go away, likely some assembly, much will be made in the customers home. But I think there will become a boom in human made things, hand made clothes, art, things humans life with.
So on one hand, everything we need will be cheap and easy to get, probably won’t even need to work, but to get the unique stuff, the human made stuff will go up, and will be a status symbol.
Next 50 years.

Reply to  E.M.Smith
December 13, 2016 11:06 pm

Thank you E M Smith. Your little article should rank close up to Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Easy Lesson”. I would like to send this to various Liberal Party members, and various parliamentarians. As you own the copyright, would you give me (and perhaps others) permission to pass it on to persons who might (should) be interested?

Reply to  bit chilly
December 13, 2016 8:57 am

There were two points. The first one is not “off”; it addresses a different point. Look upthread, both labor vs wealth and govt vs private are discussed by others, so I addressed both.
Only a few small thing manufactures will move into the home. Steel, for example, needs gigantic scale to make. Similarly, fabricating ships and ore hauler trucks. Sure, you will make your own plastic pots for plants, but you will not make your own window glass, or sofa.
Per the Labor Theory Of Value (that you use, but did not name): It has a long history, and generally is not complete. Yes, embodied labor is part of the value, but other things contribute to value as well. Shipping, for example. 10 lbs. of potatoes in Idaho have zero value to me, despite the embodied labor. In my local market, they have more value. In my kitchen, even more. Even if delivered by robots with zero human labor involved. BOTH capital and labor contribute value. Communication has value added. It reduces my search costs. Thus all the marcom money spent to advertise. The net total value to me embodies all of the labor to produce, the capital stock used, the mechanical labor in fuels to ship, and the advert that informed me I could keep $2 of my money via buying at Walmart today. Labor is only a small part of value creation in modern economies.
BTW, the Labor Theory Of Value reaches back to Ricardo, Marx, and even Adam Smith gave it a try
but after a couple of hundred years it still “has issues”…

Reply to  bit chilly
December 13, 2016 11:16 pm

The problem with that argument is that it can equally be applied to an alarm clock. It gets the wealth producer out of bed early allowing the wealth producer to create more wealth than they would without the alarm clock. So by your lights the alarm clock is creating real wealth.
The alarm clock does not perform activities that the wealth producer would otherwise be responsible for. It’s actually no different from hiring a clerk to do filing – the boss is more productively engaged in doing higher-level (business-wise) activities than filing his own documents. Likewise, he is more productively engaged in doing his job than in mowing the lawn.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 8:03 am

Another great article Willis! Thank you. And thank you as well for that link, I enjoyed that article, as well as the piece on why ‘We Need Democrats’. Great work.

Cliff Willoz
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 10:19 am

Willis….I have learned more about DOE from this post that in 30 years of poking around the edges as a consumer. Sincerely hope that you will be able to follow up on this and help give us some insight into the responses to the questions.
Thanks again for a great post.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 7:39 pm

Thx Willis, Good observations & hopefully good signs for the future. I similarly have been tasked with performing audits of companies about to be acquired to identify problem areas & prioritize new management focus on those problem areas. Its a hectic time and requires both experience and proper vision to ask the right questions, followup and break through the fog. I wish the transition team all the success possible and hope that they can effect necessary changes in the DOE as well as other federal agencies.

Reply to  Richvs
December 13, 2016 9:04 am

I once learned (the hard way) to ask during interviews “Are there any current or pending lawsuits involving the department I will be running?” and “What is the nature of any HR issues being worked?”
It’s a long story….

December 10, 2016 3:09 am

This is one of the most exciting posts I have ever read!!!
It is great to know the authors of the questions are getting to the heart of things. Nice, too, to learn of a possible refocus onto nuclear.
Over the last few years it has been absolutely agonizing to read in WUWT, JoNova, etc of the sheer craziness that has infected government and academia. The Trump win brought some hope. Now some resolution.

Reply to  Mark
December 10, 2016 6:01 am

Couldn’t agree more. It’s like slowly waking from a long and terrible nightmare to find that the sun is still shining and the birds are singing outside your window.

Reply to  cephus0
December 13, 2016 2:26 am

At 2:30 AM election night I woke my beloved Libby and told her “Trump Won”. She said “Thank God” and got up to watch the news. A week or so ago I asked her what she felt at that moment. She said “Relief”. My exact feelings.

M Seward
December 10, 2016 3:18 am

The great mistake that the msm/leftard elites make is that because Trump is wealthy enough to act like a bit of a dick when it suits him that he is a complete dick and not worth several billion dollars. His choices for defence and security secretaries shows that he know exactly the sort of clear but hard headed people he wants and is putting in charge. His chat with the Taiwanese President was done in the full knowledge that the mainland Chinese regime would whine about it but would also get the message that the US is back in the game to win. This shot across the bow of the EPA privateers is just that and, as Willis so beautifully sets out, this is not some 18th century cannon shot, this is a modern, multiple guided warhead, JOINT projectile with precision targetting.
Methinks this is going to be so much fun watching the rodents scurry and squirm in the lead up to January 20. And after that… JDAM it looks like its gonna be a lot of fun!

December 10, 2016 3:22 am

“Given that offshore wind is far and away the MOST EXPENSIVE of all the renewable options, the answer should be “None”.”
Best at hiding bird carcasses though.

Craig Loehle
Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 8:13 am

The best thing about offshore wind is that the bird carcasses vanish in the ocean. Sort of an auto-coverup.

Alan the Brit
December 10, 2016 3:22 am

Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy, called the memo’s demand that Energy officials identify specific employees “alarming.”
It would appear that Mr Halpern & his associates have fallen at the first hurdle, one can be scientific, or one can be democratic, & as science is not democratic, it cannot be both! Questions the calibre of some of these “concerned” scientists!

Another Ian
Reply to  Alan the Brit
December 10, 2016 1:13 pm

Are you casting nastersums at Anthony’s dog there?
(I’m presuming that membership is still current)

staspeterson BSME,MBA, MSMa
Reply to  Alan the Brit
December 10, 2016 7:18 pm

The UCS of which I was an original charter member, was started by genuine concerned scientists. But over time the scientists and engineers were pushed out, until only the fundraising politicians, and nut case fringe marxists remained. But there are still a few left but they work the 2nd and 3rd shift as these sanitary and janitory engineers ply their work on floors and toilets,

Lowell Brown
Reply to  staspeterson BSME,MBA, MSMa
December 11, 2016 12:58 am

It is very much worth one’s time to examine the UCS web site and look at the qualifications of their staff.
Except for two physicists well into their late 80’s who are on the board, there is no one there who has
a degree in a hard, quantitative science. Yet they make very authoritative -scientific- sounding proclamations have no basis. These just promote their purely political agenda.

December 10, 2016 3:27 am

Well, someone has been doing their homework, and so has Willis.
Can’t wait for answers to Qs 55 to 58.
But one nit pick – to all the questions which have the words “Can you provide ….. ” in them, all they have to do is answer “yes” or “no”. The words should have been “Please provide ….. .”
And to Dudley in Aus, maybe there should be an instruction saying “If you don’t know the answer right away, find out asap.”

Reply to  Oldseadog
December 10, 2016 3:45 am

I thought of that as well, but if you think about it a bit more, when the POTUS says “Can you” he means “Do it now, and if you dare have the temerity to answer yes or no, I’ll find someone who’ll give me the answer I’m looking for, don’t test me, you’ll come off second best”.

Reply to  HotScot
December 10, 2016 3:58 am

Yes, HotScot, but they will obfuscate and prevaricate and bluster as much as they can because many of them know that when they give a final answer the P45 will arrive the next morning. (For transatlantic readers, P45 = termination of employment notice.)

Reply to  HotScot
December 10, 2016 5:37 am

Oooo, Oldseadog. Note that Trump is President #45 or P45. Coincidence or prophetic? :o)

Tom in Florida
Reply to  HotScot
December 10, 2016 6:32 am

You can also take it as wanting a simple “Yes” or “No” to the “Can you..” question. If it is “Yes”, they are ordered to provide it, if the answer is “No”, then the next question is “Why not”.
This is a tactic that can be used to box someone in, then you slowly shrink the boxes to tighten the focus of the following questions so they cannot escape.

Reply to  HotScot
December 10, 2016 7:45 am

TiF, my thought as well. Will quickly put people sorted in to bins from useful to gone.

Reply to  HotScot
December 10, 2016 11:26 am

>>>Note that Trump is President #45 or P45.
Errr, that needs some explaining. In the UK a P45 is a notice of termination of your job. Or rather it is the notice to the taxman that you have lost your job. So yes, a bit prophetic…

Martin A
Reply to  Oldseadog
December 10, 2016 4:11 am

When I was a little kid at school, another kid would sometimes ask “Sir, can I go to the toilet?”. One master would answer “Smith, I am not medically qualified to answer that question. I suggest you ask your doctor.”

Reply to  Oldseadog
December 10, 2016 5:29 am

“Can you provide” should have the “Can you” removed.
Refusal should mean dismissal and an audit.

Reply to  Hans
December 10, 2016 6:46 am

what does it mean if your employer says: “we are going to can you”.
I think adding “can you” is a subliminal message. this is what will happen if you give the wrong answer.

Reply to  Hans
December 10, 2016 6:50 am

“we are going to can you”. polite form of “we are going to shitcan you”

Curious George
Reply to  Hans
December 10, 2016 12:34 pm

Technically, until January 20 their boss is B. Hussein Obama. Later, “Can you” will be removed.

Reply to  Oldseadog
December 10, 2016 5:54 am

By asking “can you provide …” you are putting the department in an untenable position. Answer no, and the person/department is essential saying ‘we were not doing our job’ because it was their job to do such work. That can used against them in many ways. Answer yes, and they admit the work is there and so will have to show it at some time.

Reply to  alexwade
December 10, 2016 11:15 am

The best answer is
“Yes. To compile complete documentation will require Xxx man hours and approximately y weeks. Would you like us to proceed? If so we will require orders from zzz.”
I’ve been in this situation, and it’s important to recall this process does take away from day to day activities and quite often requires budgeting.

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
December 10, 2016 3:50 pm

To which the investigator responds”Fine, in 24 hours you have all relevant documents listed and involved individuals in this office, after that time United States Marshals will handle the issue. Have a nice day.”

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
December 10, 2016 3:54 pm

Oh, and I hope it does “take away from day to day activities” of these criminal c**ksuckers.

Reply to  alexwade
December 10, 2016 4:20 pm

Fernando: if given that response, my reply would be, if you don’t have the answer to that question on hand, then the program is not being administered properly, and all employees are hereby classified as redundant. Your budget is now zero.

Steve Lohr
Reply to  Oldseadog
December 10, 2016 8:42 am

I have a limited experience doing audits but enough to know how the “can you” question works. If the answer is affirmative the next step is to review what is produced. So for instance, if I ask can you provide training records for your employees, the next question is of course, can you show me those records. That’s when the truth telling begins.

Will Nelson
Reply to  Oldseadog
December 10, 2016 3:30 pm

No fool that has ever been in professional employment would misunderstand, “can you…”. You are either here to do, or it’s time to move along.

Blue SFF Reader
Reply to  Oldseadog
December 11, 2016 8:52 pm

No, “can you provide” is appropriate to determine of the records have been kept and are available. The politeness is honorific at best. When the POTUS says “please” it’s an order. They’ll jump for Trump, or they’ll be sidelined and dumped.

December 10, 2016 3:28 am

“These two questions show us that they plan to restart Yucca Mountain, the shuttered nuclear waste repository.”
Please don’t restart that boondoggle. It buries enough energy to power us for a thousand years.

Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 3:28 am

Reprocess that fuel!

Reply to  CodeTech
December 10, 2016 4:40 am

and NOT as DU weapons huh?

Reply to  CodeTech
December 10, 2016 5:03 am

ozspeaksup: “and NOT as DU weapons huh?”
You’ll probably never understand how ignorant that comment is. Just totally laughably ignorant.

Reply to  CodeTech
December 10, 2016 11:47 am

Indeed, reprocess. The vast bulk of long lived radioactivity from nuclear “waste” comes from uranium, plutonium, and assorted transuranics, most of which can be used as fuel in a properly designed reactor.

Reply to  CodeTech
December 10, 2016 7:40 pm

“and NOT as DU weapons huh?”
Ozspeakup, I dont feel the need to feel superior so can respond slightly informatively. The product of DU is at the other end of the cycle as a by product of the enrichment phase.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 4:35 am

No, I worked on that project. The expectation was that the tunnels would collapse over the buried “waste” and it would be irretrievable.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 5:14 am

In fact, just to show you how ridiculous it was, they had “models” for the size of chunk that would fall down on the (almost pure nickel) waste containers when the tunnels collapsed.
The containers couldn’t withstand the modeled chunk, so they engineered titanium carports over the waste containers. These shields would easily use up the world’s supply of titanium.
All to shield the public from the potential egress of radioactivity 6 miles away from where open air atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons occurred and in a basin with no effluent.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 5:16 am

“Thanks, Rox. Over what time period were they supposed to collapse?”
10,000 years.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 7:00 am

10,000 years.
more likely over that timespan yucca will end up like old mine tailings. a rich ore body once the appropriate technology becomes available.

Paul Hanlon
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 5:01 pm

eer, in ten thousand years, we will be at the beginning of the next glacial. Can’t we just let the Earth sort it out from there?

CD in Wisconsin
Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 7:32 am

“These two questions show us that they plan to restart Yucca Mountain, the shuttered nuclear waste repository.”
“Please don’t restart that boondoggle. It buries enough energy to power us for a thousand years…..”
Fourth Generation nuclear power technology folks: GE-Hitachi’s PRISM, Bill Gates’ Travelling Wave Reactor, and the molten salt reactor.
I don’t know for certain that any of these technologies will make it in to commercial use someday—I am not saying that they will. However, as I understand it, they can all use plutonium as their input to generate electricty,
I believe PRISM is at the NRC licensing stage (which I know takes many years). The other two are still in their development phase, so let’s just wait and see before we decide to PERMANENTLY dispose of plutonium at Yucca Mountain.

Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
December 10, 2016 8:15 am

“once the appropriate technology becomes available”
Well, that will never happen, since technology development by humans has frozen in time and nothing will ever improve and humans can’t adapt and we’re all gonna fry and

Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 10:18 am

Excellent summary Willis.
One minor nit. M&O is not “Maintenance and Operation contracts” it is Management & Operating Contracts.

Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 10:34 am

If you worked there, then you should know that ability to retrieve the spent nuclear fuel from a repository for 100 years is mandated by the current law.
Also the repository was not only for storage of spent nuclear fuel but also for disposal of defense nuclear waste and naval fuel. While spent nuclear fuel can be reprocessed, defense waste can’t and I doubt that the navy would want their classified waste reprocessed.
The titanium shield were not to guard against rock fall, they were planned as shields against the potential of any dripping water, that’s why they were called drip shields.
The 10,000 year criterion was morphed into a one million year criterion by the EPA and then the NRC.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Taphonomic
December 10, 2016 12:44 pm

BZ – This correct. I was one of the reviewers for the TSPA.
Early models did not have the ‘waste package’ start leaking for about 40k years. However, fighting everything in court resulted in models that ignored geology and metallurgy by assuming early waste package failures.
Even after hundreds of thousands of years, there is not a problem.

December 10, 2016 3:28 am

This is one of the reasons I felt like a giant weight had been lifted off of me on November 8.
Finally someone is asking the right questions, and anything that worries the known climastrologists is probably a good thing.
Indeed… the gravy train is going to shed a lot of passengers, and this sounds like a great leap FORWARD in Science is gearing up.

Reply to  CodeTech
December 10, 2016 3:33 am

I like to think Trump wrote these questions himself.

Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 11:54 am

More likely someone on the Trump team wrote these questions. But a key mark of a good manager is who he choses to surround himself with.

Another Ian
Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 1:20 pm

“A first rate manager hires first rate help
A second rate manager hires third rate help”
Baxter Black

Reply to  rokshox
December 11, 2016 1:02 pm

“I like to think Trump wrote these questions himself.”
I didn’t see the words “unbelievable”, “amazing”, “Incredible”, “crooked”, or “believe me” in there, so doubtful.

December 10, 2016 3:29 am

We called this the “The bonfire of the Quangos” in the UK when Labour was last kicked out under Gordon Brown.
I don’t think it was nearly as comprehensive as Trump’s though.

Nigel S
Reply to  HotScot
December 10, 2016 4:08 am

It was a bonfire in the phoenix sense unfortunately; garlic, stake, silver bullets this time let’s hope.

bit chilly
Reply to  Nigel S
December 10, 2016 7:56 am

sadly you are correct nigel s.

December 10, 2016 3:32 am

“32 Does the Department have any thoughts on how to reduce the bureaucratic burden for exporting U.S. energy technology, including but not limited to commercial nuclear technology?”
Get rid of the ridiculous Dept of Commerce “Export Controlled Information” regulations. Completely ties the hands of domestic nuclear energy technology producers and threatens us with jail at every turn.

John M. Ware
December 10, 2016 3:32 am

What a breath of fresh air! Stunning! Keep at them until all questions are answered; then proceed.

4 Eyes
December 10, 2016 3:33 am

Great post, thank you. At various times I have asked similar direct questions of my federal Australian politician about several of our Australian agencies and all I have got is trash in response. With some modifications the list of questions you have highlighted is a pro-forma for many agencies that could be used by anyone empowered enough to ask them.

Ex-expat Colin
December 10, 2016 3:44 am

Two important UK TV presenters lost their livelihood over a couple of comments about AGW/GW being of no concern. The BBC and others dropped them immediately. Over 10 years ago:
David Bellamy – Botanist
Johnny Ball – Mathematics/Arithmetic for children
There will be many others I suspect.
Questions as above need to be re configured and fired at our UK Energy Authority (Govt). Cue Lord Monckton perhaps?

Nigel S
Reply to  Ex-expat Colin
December 10, 2016 4:05 am

Yet the BBC’s pet Attenborough can recommend shooting Donal Trump without any consequences.
It was a travesty that ‘Boaty McBoatface’ was finally named after Attenborough and not a proper polar explorer like Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, OBE (Royal Scots Greys, 22 SAS and much else besides!). Thank you Secret Santa for giving me his latest book ‘Fear’.

Reply to  Nigel S
December 10, 2016 12:16 pm

And don’t forget Attenborough’s support for the demonising of CO2, when as presenter of nature television programmes he should have been explaining why we should be maximising it’s production. Now (I have to decide whether to “enjoy” his programme on NZTV tonight, or to watch and be irritated by the obviously senile uneducated idiot! Pity he is not employed by the US Government!

Ex-expat Colin
Reply to  Nigel S
December 10, 2016 11:33 pm

He’s off on it again with a man from Monaco:
“Prince Albert, the only head of state alive today to have visited the North and South Pole, said he was also funding a new project to pull together in one place all existing research on the effects of climate change”.

December 10, 2016 3:48 am

“Savannah River National Laboratory at Aiken, South Carolina (1952)”
Well 1952 is wrong there.More like 1995 or so. When under the competent leadership of DuPont, there was never any need or desire to obtain a “national lab” designation for the research facility supporting the important work performed at the Savannah River Site.
Where they were once able to build large scale facilities important to our national defense in 7 months.
Once DuPont left and a less desirable contractor took over, it was all about whatever it takes to grub taxpayer dollars. For nothing. I was there.

Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 11:59 am

A little more info. In July 1950, HST wrote to Crawford Greenewalt, president of DuPont Company, requesting DuPont undertake the design, construction and operation of a new atomic facility, as yet to be sited. In October of that year, DuPont agreed to undertake that project for cost and a fee of $1 per year. By February of 1954, R reactor was brought up to design rating. By March 1955, all five reactors were operational. “In less than five years after DuPont had agreed to take on the Savannah River Project, a site had been chosen, five reactors and their ancillary heavy water and fuel production facilities and utilities had been designed, built and operated and all reactors were producing safely at well over their design ratings.”* Savannah River Laboratory’s mission under DuPont was technical support of operations. DuPont notified DOE of their intent to step back from SRP operations in 1989 with a one year transition to a new operator.
* “History of DuPont at the Savannah River Plant”, W.P. Bebbington, 1990.

Reply to  RichardT
December 10, 2016 12:13 pm

RichardT, you forgot to tell the “rest of the story.”
The Savannah River Site today is a Superfund clean up site that is contaminated with a lot of nuclear wastes.
“Site cleanup completion is currently scheduled for 2065.”

December 10, 2016 3:50 am

But, but…the media reports have it that the Trump transition is in complete disarray! Surely, this is fake news, or something…I guess.
Seriously, my bet is a loud silence from the agency under the cover of a media barrage.
BTW, Willis, you provided me with a huge laugh over your wife’s negotiating tactics on color. Oh, the humanity!!!
Best to all,

Travis Casey
December 10, 2016 3:50 am

Draining the swamp!

Bob ernest
December 10, 2016 3:57 am

Willis, this is one of your very best 😘👍🍺

December 10, 2016 4:24 am

59 Can you describe the number of personnel hired into management positions at EIA from outside EIA and compare it to the number of personnel hired into management positions at EIA who were currently serving at EIA?

Civil servants should not have an agenda. They should professionally do the jobs they are mandated to do.
Hiring a lot of managers from outside the civil service is a red flag. Something’s wrong one way or the other.

Reply to  commieBob
December 10, 2016 4:46 am

Regulatory capture.

Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 6:36 am

That’s a yuge problem. The big bucks are in industry. Civil servants won’t do anything to upset industry if they think they can get better paying jobs with said industry. If the civil servants don’t see the possibility of promotion in the civil service, it multiplies the problem times at least two.
regulatory capture == fox guarding henhouse

Reply to  commieBob
December 10, 2016 4:57 am

The civil service in America is very different from that in the UK, or Australia. In the US, many civil servants are tied to one or other of the parties. They will leave the service when the “wrong” party wins power and re-enter it years later when the “right” party gets back in. In management, this appears to be nearly 100%. For instance, the secretary of the department is a political appointment and will be changed with every new government.
It is extremely rare for the secretary of a department in the UK or Australia to be changed by the minister. It happens, but only when the secretary has become so enamoured with a previous governments policy that they are unable to follow the new minister’s directions.

Reply to  Hivemind
December 10, 2016 11:02 pm

Not quite true.
Most civil service employees may belong to a party, but they do not need to reveal that to anybody, ever. Nor do these employees leave the government employ when the Administration changes parties.
There are political appointees to head a number of the agencies. The number of appointees is not great.
Properly or perhaps better stated as traditionally, all appointees submit their resignations when a new President takes office; technically even when a President is re-elected.
These appointees and the President’s cabinet are the people who the President elect is building his Administration; and their approach looks to be solid business from the start.
The secretary, frequently referred to is not actually a stenographer typist clerk, but is the head of the State Department; known as the Secretary of State. One of the more powerful positions of a President’s cabinet.
Every president gets to pick their own cabinet.

December 10, 2016 4:26 am

Yeah, and can someone maybe do a calculation for the the LCOE of coal generation WITHOUT carbon sequestration technology. All that I see these days, are comparisons between absurd intermittents and LOOK – coal is now really expensive TOO – because we added ludicrously priced CCS to our coal calculation and got the total to come out in the region of pedal-power!!
Here’s an example, where costs are compared, but where we don’t get to see the cost of conventionally burned coal. Here’s my idea – maybe they should stop trying to hide the truth by playing silly games:

Reply to  indefatigablefrog
December 10, 2016 8:13 am

‘Correct’ Calculations for USC coal, CCGT, and onshore wind were guest posted at Judith’s Climate Etc maybe 18 months ago in essay True Cost of Wind. All the corrections to EIA are discussed in transparent detail, with refrences. The EIA costing malfeasance is much greater than just omitting wind backup as noted by Q 55. We identified four major additional areas. Blatant Augean Stables stuff. The ‘answer’ is CCGT LCOE ~ $56/MWh depending on natural gas price assumptions, USC coal ~$60 based on Powder River low sulfur subbituminois, and onshore wind ~$144 based on ERCOT grid backup actuals.

Dave Kelly
Reply to  indefatigablefrog
December 10, 2016 4:37 pm

My guess is the EIA was constrained by the EPA’s existing 111 (B) requirement for IGCC w/ Carbon Capture as the Best Available Technology for new coal plants and 111 (D) rules for existing plants. The bottom line being that the EIA assessed costs are based on existing regulation and on a forecast of expected regulation. When the EPA regulations are changed the EIA base case assessment will follow.
Problem is solved if: 1) the new EPA administrator reopens the GHG endangerment finding and concludes little danger or too much uncertainty (thus gutting the EPA GHG regulations), 2) the new EPA administrator simply changes the EPA’s 111 (B) Best Available Standard to new pulverized coal unit (as well as the 111 (D) rule for existing plants [i.e. the Clean Air Plan]), or 3) Congress defangs the EPA with respect to GHG’s and Ocean Acidification.

Reply to  Dave Kelly
December 17, 2016 10:46 am

Thankyou for that detailed explanation.
I was unaware that the economic nonsense of CCS had been cast in stone as a regulatory requirement.
No wonder people are complaining that America has gifted an unfair advantage to their trading partner, China.
I’m shocked. I still assumed that CCS would never fly due to exhorbitant costs associated with the technique.

Bill Illis
December 10, 2016 4:40 am

Besides the fact that these are very complex questions that even a dedicated Department would find very hard to answer, these questions will never get through the political appointees in the DOE before the transition.
It will be professional bureaucrats trying to answer the question properly against the political appointees who are trying to stifle the answers which say “we did not have statutory authority to spend these billion dollars”. I suppose some stuff will get brown-enveloped over to the transition team, but professionals in government normally respect the chain of authority even if the political appointee/authorities will be gone in a few months.
When new people are put in charge after the transition, the professional bureaucrats and lawyers will be trying to provide the correct answers to protect their jobs but they will be stonewalled by the appointees still remaining in the Department. There will also be professionals still remaining in positions of authority who are genuinely captured by the climate change religion that they will also stonewall the answers.
It will take many months before these very complex questions have full objective responses. There has got to be room for Willis to participate in this somehow. Anyone involved in the transition that reads this should take note.

Reply to  Bill Illis
December 10, 2016 4:58 am

Trump may not be able to do anything about elected members of House of reps or Congress, but he can run the bureaucracy as a business. Stonewall too much and you get fired or forced into early retirement. These ‘professionals’ as you call them are used to dealing with politicians and not to ruthless businessmen.

Reply to  Bill Illis
December 10, 2016 7:07 am

Also, don’t forget the power of the budget process. For many of the questions failing to provide a complete answer may result in program cuts or outright termination.

Reply to  Bill Illis
December 10, 2016 8:04 am

looks like a democratic way to elect volunteers for the guillotine.
i eagerly anticipate the concensus…

Ron Konkoma
Reply to  Bill Illis
December 10, 2016 8:48 am

Or President Trump could do a PATCO on the whole department. I’m sure he’d be delighted to have a sacrificial lamb to show potential transgressors that the way is hard.
The usual suspects would, of course, make an unseemly squeal, but that would easily be drowned out by the cheers of tens of millions of taxpayers nation-wide.

Major Meteor
Reply to  Bill Illis
December 10, 2016 10:12 am

The entrenched bureaucrats will dig in and take forever at answering the questions. They will treat this like a filibuster and claim it will cost millions of dollars to come up with the answers.

Reply to  Major Meteor
December 10, 2016 11:13 pm

Outright refusal to comply is a denial of responsibility and grounds for job termination.
Obfuscation and obstructionism are falsehoods and grounds for reassignment, at minimum.
As pointed out earlier, the easiest way to clear a position is to recognize the job is worthless since it isn’t performed properly and eliminate the position.
bye bye bureaucrat.

Dave Kelly
Reply to  Bill Illis
December 10, 2016 4:42 pm

Reading though the questions, I suspect a number of fed-up DOE professionals, both retired and active, were involved in the development of the questions above.

Reply to  Dave Kelly
December 10, 2016 8:00 pm


December 10, 2016 4:42 am

The next step should be calling lobbying by its true name- corruption. I live in China at the moment and lobbyists and their companies would be arrested and imprisoned and probably have their assets confiscated. China has grown soft these days. They used to execute them, harvest their organs and issue a bill to the family for the cost of the bullet.

December 10, 2016 4:42 am

Anyone asks: What does he mean “Drain the Swamp”?
Well, here we go.
We’ve just pulled the plug at the DOE.
Comeuppance for them.
Schadenfreude for me.

December 10, 2016 4:51 am

When Australian governments change, the bureaucracy in every department prepares a brief for the incoming minister, which details such things as:
– what the department does
– how it is structured
– how it’s budget is structured
– issues it is dealing with at the moment, as well as longer term
– and many other items to allow the incoming minister to take over, relatively seamlessly.
Much of the questions which Trump’s Transition Team are asking falls into these categories and is quite unremarkable. However, there are also questions which suggest a plan exists to transition the DOE into a new direction. The fact that Trump may think he is allowed to run the DOE in the way he wants, is what appears to be igniting the hair of greenies all over America.

Reply to  Hivemind
December 10, 2016 5:02 am

Perhaps Trump hasn’t seen ‘Yes Minister’. Uk and Australian ministers conform. Trump is a wildcard.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 6:11 am

I would have asked DeCaprio to lead my new Environmental rehabilitation department.
When he said yes, I would have handed him a shovel and told him the job required him personally to plant enough trees to counteract his use of fossil fuels in his cars and airplanes.
That would keep him busy for decades, and might actually get him to do something useful.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 10:46 am

The Democrats expected the usual Republican capitulation. Problem is, they didn’t get the usual or a Republican.

Ron Konkoma
Reply to  Hivemind
December 10, 2016 8:39 am

Numerous questions asked about statutory authority, suggesting that the incoming administration is aware that the law may impose boundaries on what they may do.
Pretty much anything not required by law is discretionary, and the president is generally understood to have sole discretion (as the head of the executive branch of government).
If congress thinks that the president is going to far, it can enact law limiting his efforts.
Within those constraints, I’d be of the opinion that the president _can_ run the DOE precisely the way he wants, which is exactly how the government was designed to function.

Reply to  Ron Konkoma
December 10, 2016 11:38 pm

Equally NASA and other executive branch functions. Some presidents have taken advantage of that relationship in the past. It isn’t without precedent.

December 10, 2016 5:01 am

Willis, EM is about cleaning up the cold war environmental hotspots. It involves very big, as in money, general fund(s). I think they are looking at not only the money and accounting, but whether it has been usurped past the legislated remit. They will need the statutory authorizations, etc just as they requested about EIA. The cleanup of the Savannah River site is one.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 10, 2016 8:06 am

Willis, I’m still waiting for a question I can answer… 😉

Bruce Cobb
December 10, 2016 5:04 am

14 Did DOE or any of its contractors run the integrated assessment models (lAMs)? Did they pick the discount rates to be used with the lAMs? What was DOE’s opinion on the proper discount rates used with the lAMs? What was DOE’s opinion on the proper equilibrium climate sensitivity?

“My guess is that they’re trying to undermine the credibility of the science that DOE has produced, particularly in the field of climate science,” said Rob Jackson, a Stanford climate and energy researcher, in response to the question about the integrated assessment models.

Oh dear – “undermine the science”? No wonder they’re worried. When you shine a light on “climate science”, it vaporizes vampire-like.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
December 10, 2016 6:18 am

But surely undermining (or trying to do so) the accepted view is a cornerstone of science.
If what has been produced by the DOE can’t withstand scrutiny then it was not god science in the first place. On the other hand, anything that *does* withstand scrutiny is more reliable.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
December 10, 2016 6:27 am

Doesn’t that just establish Rob Jackson as an anti-scientific mountebank. The whole point of science is that you do everything in your power to undermine every bit of it. The scraps remaining which cannot be undermined represent the current state of the art. That the idiot Jackson doesn’t even understand that much is why he is into voodoo junk science.

Reply to  cephus0
December 10, 2016 11:22 pm

Note that Rob Jackson is himself dependent on the climate money flow. He might have to find real work, after parasitizing citizen taxes, his cover letter will not be as credible with real research outfits.

Mark from the Midwest
December 10, 2016 5:05 am

Wonderful way to start the weekend, sitting here with a nice dark roast, toast, blackberry jam and all these delicious questions to the DOE… life is good.
Thanks Willis

December 10, 2016 5:07 am

Great job as usual Willis. Sounds like someone on the inside is giving advice

Tom Halla
Reply to  John piccirilli
December 10, 2016 9:59 am

I agree witgh John Picirrilli–the sort of questions being asked look like someone on the inside of the DOE is giving advice, and already knows the answer to a vast percentage of the questions already. Trump is thus far surprising me pleasantly.

Dr. Steve Piet
December 10, 2016 5:07 am

I worked at the DoE national laboratory in Idaho for 32 years; now retired. I’ve worked on nuclear fusion, nuclear fission, and environmental R&D. Worked with many of the other national laboratories, as well as our foreign counterparts.
The group who wrote this memo has put serious work into analyzing DoE. I am very impressed. DoE is a complete mess and someone wants to fix it.
Digging deep into the analyses and data of EIA is particularly wise. There are all sorts of assumptions baked into their models (what a shock) such as a risk penalty that reduces the projection of future nuclear power.
EM has huge obligations (and huge costs) at Hanford, Savannah River, Idaho, and elsewhere to clean up portions of the national laboratory complex that are contaminated and no longer used. Buildings, waste burial sites, and so forth. BTW, i totally agree with the comment about DuPont’s tenure at Savannah River.
Yucca Mtn needs to be repurposed and then opened. Burying used commercial nuclear fuel is stupid because ~95% of the material has high energy content. The used commercial nuclear fuel needs to be recycled. At the same time, there are all sorts of wastes that do need permanent disposal and DoE owns them. From a geochemistry standpoint, some belong at the salt waste site in New Mexico. Others belong in Yucca Mtn. We might actually make huge progress on nuclear waste, infuriating the anti=-nuclear organizations who thrive on keeping nuclear waste an active controversy.

Reply to  Dr. Steve Piet
December 10, 2016 6:21 am

One of the controversies around EM has been funding, and what the money used is actually funding. The cold war problem goes back all the way to Carter, maybe before. I worked for a firm in the mid 80’s that wanted to get part of the contract and send me to Hanford. Part of the problem is DOE and NRC is that often regulations are even worse for them and with even more reporting and oversight. Looking at the general structure, it appears to me that the questions also indicate not only a new direction, but a new emphasis as well. Businesses get it from all sides and with required comments and addressing these comments, progress is not only slow but can be stopped easily.

Reply to  Dr. Steve Piet
December 10, 2016 7:57 am

Agree. Ford’s fear about proliferation led tomthe bury spent fuel silliness. Yucca can be used as a partial solution to the Hanford mess. Dry casked spent fuel should be reprocessed usingnthe MOX process. Japan has a complete facility at Rokkasho that will be underutilized if it phases out nuclear.

Reply to  ristvan
December 11, 2016 3:57 am

It was President Carter in 1977 who issued an Executive Order banning USA reprocessing.
As history has proven, there were no technical reasons for such an order.

Reply to  Dr. Steve Piet
December 10, 2016 9:07 am

I have struggled with DOE a long time. Here is an email from 2013. The link to our published paper for a proposal to clean up the radwaste at Hanford no longer works (surprise!) but I can post it if anyone is interested.
DOE Hanford 5/1/2013
I requested information from DOE about progress and cost of cleaning up the radwaste at Hanford on Feb 23rd and have not received an answer,
Rather than repeat myself below is a copy of the email I have just sent to Senator Ron Wyden in the hope he will be more interested.
I wasted some months of my life trying to get DOE to consider better proposals than their RFP specified without success. See my paper linked below.
To Senator Ron Wyden 5/1/2013 Re radwaste at Hanford.
As you are mentioned in the article here, I thought you might be interested that if DOE had followed our proposal it would have saved $100 billion and all the liquids would have been vitrified by now. See
This note was prompted by the piece in the Daily Kos linked below
It looks like the problems are even worse than we forecast. It seems that DOE has not vitrified ANY of the liquid waste, yet if they had accepted our proposal it would all have been vitrified by now. I also requested information on progress in cleaning up the radwaste and the cost so far from DOE and have not received a reply from them either.
I thought DOE was supposed to respond to inquiries. My direct experience is that DOE is no longer technically competent and just relies on outside contractors for advice when it comes to something complicated like this. Why has no one been held accountable for this extremely expensive disaster? It is becoming a farce.
Adrian Ashfield

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Adrian Ashfield
December 10, 2016 1:32 pm

Getting information from the Daily Kos would suggest that Adrian is a crackpot was would his post.

Reply to  Adrian Ashfield
December 10, 2016 11:37 pm

Once a RFP (Request for Proposals) is issued, it takes someone with an iron will to tell the procurement department that the RFP must be cancelled, rewritten and reissued.
Many employees prefer to let the RFPs die naturally, quietly.

December 10, 2016 5:10 am

Take names if you want. Then get rid of the DoE. The whole thing. Everyone.

December 10, 2016 5:15 am

It is my hope that the Trump administration defunds the left whenever possible. Everyone is right to worry about crony capitalism, but the left has invented crony NGO-ism, where government agrees to a deal with an NGO not to payoff in money but to pay off in achieving the same ideological goal. The icing on this cake is that government somewhere along the line finds a reason to also give the NGO a grant to study this or that urgent issue. It is horribly corrupt.

December 10, 2016 5:19 am

Thanks Willis. Interesting and very good to have. Lot of work, I’m about half way through. On #21 Participation legislation – this is important for the costly high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines “needed” to support the movement of energy from windy regions to population centers. While there are good practical HVDC applications and usage – the scale and cost of some of these proposed projects to support renewables (Clean Line) appear way out of the money relative to benefits and uncounted additional costs and burdens they would impose. A big question on these is who benefits and who pays.

Roger Knights
December 10, 2016 5:19 am

The follow-up questions should be even better!

John Furst
December 10, 2016 5:26 am

Excellent article. Nicely done.
Wondering why the request wasn’t available directly from transition team.
Here’s hoping EPA, Energy, n Interior, Homeland, Education, and more get similar specific requests. Although I suspect as Illis has stated that no action will happen until after the new folks are fully in place. In the least all agencies should now be required to fully release the data, algorithms and such used in developing the cost / benefits of any specific findings leading to rule making, and provide follow-up results measured against those findings.
One thing about this election …there was NO hope with one candidate, and at least SOME hope with the winner. This article allows me to feel there is even MORE hope.
Thanks Willis.

James Scanlon
December 10, 2016 5:47 am

Hopefully someone(s) on Trump’s team is/are reading the responses to this thread

Reply to  James Scanlon
December 10, 2016 12:59 pm

Responses that contain good information from scientific minds can and should be put into the MAGA transition page by the author. A suggestion to read this article with commentary would be good also.
It is very easy to get ideas across now. I do believe that each response is being read, and the more intelligent and helpful ones are forwarded to appropriate persons.

Science or Fiction
December 10, 2016 5:51 am

“What was DOE’s opinion on the proper equilibrium climate sensitivity?”
That is a good question. The gut feeling by IPCC on that question is everything from a walk in the park to catastrophe:
“The equilibrium climate sensitivity quantifies the response of the climate system to constant radiative forcing on multi-century time scales. It is defined as the change in global mean surface temperature at equilibrium that is caused by a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C (high confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C (high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C (medium confidence)( Note 16 ).”
Note 16 “No best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity can now be given because of a lack of agreement on values across assessed lines of evidence and studies.

IPCC; WGI ; AR5; Summary for policymakers; Page 16

December 10, 2016 5:53 am

Great post. Just one quibble….”Folks, for $4.5 billion dollars, we could provide clean water to almost half a million villages around the world … or we could put it into Elon Musk’s bank account…”
Nope. America’s government shouldn’t be interested in foreign villages water supplies either. Not their concern.
That 4.5 billion dollars needs to be returned to the American taxpayer and all taxes reduced so that it isn’t taken from them next time…. Americans are being treated as Tax Slaves. Time it stopped.

Kaiser Derden
Reply to  J.H.
December 10, 2016 7:07 am

bingo … Willis just wants to spend the money on the things that HE considers virtuous … the government should no business in virtue signaling …

Reply to  Kaiser Derden
December 10, 2016 2:50 pm

Kaiser, where did Willis write or indicate he “wants to spend the money on the things that HE considers virtuous”?

Reply to  J.H.
December 10, 2016 7:19 am

That 4.5 billion dollars needs to be returned
agreed. while it may seem harsh, foreign aid almost always causes massive problems in the country that receives it, because it undermines the local economy.
what would happen in the US, if for example Saudi Arabia started giving the US all the free oil they wanted, and the US government wasn’t powerful enough to prevent it? The US oil industry would collapse. And if the Saudi’s then turned off the oil? The country would collapse, without a shot being fired, due to energy shortages, because the US oil industry would no longer exist..
This is what happens in the 3rd world when aid is given the removed.

Reply to  J.H.
December 10, 2016 8:13 am

I’d pay $10 (~4.5B/350M) for half a million villages to have access to clean water.

Ron Konkoma
Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 8:16 am

And you are free to do so. I wouldn’t (for whatever reason) so I should be free to decline.

Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 8:35 am

Take your $10 bill to the toilet and flush it, same effect. We have been drilling wells and telling people to boil their drinking water, to not urinate/defecate in springs/streams/lakes/rivers for 200 years. It. Don’t. Work. Until they can stop embracing socialism and wake the f**k up nothing will help them. Throwing money at them certainly has not.

Ron Konkoma
Reply to  rokshox
December 10, 2016 9:59 am

But now that I think about it, an addendum to the federal tax return would be good.
“I want to pay for drilling wells for foreigners: Y/N.”
“I want to pay for green-energy subsidies: Y/N.”
“I want to pay Elon Musk to go to Mars: Y/N.”
“I want to spend lavishly on politicians’ lifestyles: Y/N.”
“I want to pay to send our young men and women to some crapholestan to get slaughtered and maimed in a misguided attempt to bring so-called democracy to inbred cave-men who can barely govern their local bazaar: Y/N”
Answering “no” gets you a tax credit for the prorated amount.
I would answer “yes” to the third if I could stipulate that it was Elon Musk who was to go, personally, and never return. And take his stupid taxpayer-subsidized “businesses” (con-games) with him.

Reply to  rokshox
December 15, 2016 10:20 pm

I’d settle for Native Americans to have clean water on our/their own lands.

Ron Konkoma
Reply to  J.H.
December 10, 2016 8:15 am

Hear here!

December 10, 2016 5:54 am

Re Questions 70 – 74 seem to relate to the productivity of the lab staff. (“Can you provide a list of all peer-reviewed publications by lab staff for the past three years?; Can you provide a list of current professional society memberships of lab staff? Can you provide a list of publications by lab staff for the past three years? Can you provide a list of all websites maintained by or contributed to by laboratory staff during work hours for the past three years? Can you provide a list of all other positions currently held by lab staff, paid and unpaid, including faculties, boards, and consultancies?”)
Do the incoming administration suspect that lab staff have been putting effort into their own little extra-curricular projects, ’causes’, charities, etc. and furthering their own career (by increasing their ‘paper-count’) all at the DOE’s expense?

Reply to  JCalvertN(UK)
December 10, 2016 8:28 am

Having worked in energy storage materials in my own company (several issued US patents, two fundamental) I have interacted for a decade with some of these DoE labs such as Oak Ridge, Sandia, Idaho, Argonne, and NREL, both directly and via technical conferences. Their scientific output is feeble or worse. Many investigators will have produced no papers the past few years. A lot of their ‘studies’ are case histories of what somebody in the private sector did with federal grants and subsidies from ARPA E, or feasibility speculations (what if, if we just had…) justifying some harebrained program. Have seen it up close and personal. Plus, lots of duplication at different labs.
My guess is you could trim deadweight and duplication by half, and end up with a more managable and productive national lab system focussed on potentially useful stuff like 4th gen nuclear rather than future wind power options if we just had a nationwide HVDC transmission backbone.

Roger Knights
Reply to  ristvan
December 10, 2016 11:37 am

Rud: About three days ago I put a note in Trump’s suggestion box nominating you to be his national science advisor.

Pat Frank
Reply to  ristvan
December 10, 2016 12:32 pm

You description does not at all apply to SLAC, Rud. There’d be no problem supplying published work and describing contributions to science.

December 10, 2016 6:07 am

Chopping dead wood makes noise. The US media will continue to publicize the context free commentary of USC and like minded political groups to undermine an administration it opposes. Our hope is that the new administration which owes them nothing proceeds with its agenda.

December 10, 2016 6:08 am

Thanks Willis. This is what got me started looking into this climate stuff back before climategate. Someone had tried to get information out of OUR government about how it was funding IPCC and CRU and Phil Jones. Where were the audits of how the money was spent? Where were the receipts? Who was responsible? Turned out it was just a big slush fund for Mike Mann, Phil Jones and the whole cabal. And what did we get for all those millions? Nothing.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 10, 2016 6:08 am

WIllis: many thanks for your efforts in putting this article together.
Regarding questions 55-57 (LCOE calculations):
Rud Istvan and Planning Engineer wrote The True Costs of WInd Electricity, which disputed the EIA LCOE figures for wind generation. The two main errors were (1) plant lifecycle assumptions that were unreasonably optimistic for wind and at the same time unreasonably pessimistic for coal, and (2) hiding the assumption of a carbon tax in the capital fund rate to finance coal plants (9.5% for coal vs. 6.5% for wind).
A thorough review of the official LCOE figures from the EIA would be an excellent initial action from incoming Secretary Pruitt.
Man, this is going to be fun to watch.

Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 10, 2016 8:34 am

AW, glad you liked it. Russ and I had great fun putting it together. Not the only place I have caught EIA in complete screwups. Essays Reserve Reservations (California’s Monterey shale) and Matyoshka Reserves (Russia’s Bahzenov shale) in mymebook Blowing Smoke illustrate two other collossal basic blunders.

December 10, 2016 6:11 am

Yes, collect the names, find which ones have and are committing crimes and PROSECUTE them.

December 10, 2016 6:19 am

“Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at Livermore, California (1952)”
I guess that’s where Ben Santer works. His hair may be feeling a bit warm.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 10, 2016 6:20 am

23 How many fusion programs, both public and private, are currently being funded worldwide?

IMHO, the answer should be zero (speaking of plasma fusion). To this point fusion research has been all costs and no benefits. Time to stop beating our heads against this particular wall and devote our resources to something more likely to pay off.

Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 10, 2016 8:37 am

AW, I agree with the possible exception of Lockheed skunkworks high beta reactor. Thatnhas gone dark; i suspect the Navy might be mighty interested. Essay Going Nuclear gave the reasoning behind shutting NIF and exiting ITER.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  ristvan
December 10, 2016 9:59 am

Thanks; I have not read that essay. Compact, reliable and safe reactors would be a huge win, not just for grid power, but also for marine propulsion. The carriers and subs can run for years, but all the escort ships have to refuel. We need more than just one heavy-duty icebreaker (Polar Star), and that’s another application severely limited by fuel endurance.

Reply to  ristvan
December 11, 2016 2:58 pm

The Polar Sea is the Polar Star’s sister ship, and is currently laid up a a “hangar queen.” (to mix service metaphors) The big problem with the design is the fuel weight is what enables the ship to break ice, long before the fuel is used up, the ship is too light. Gut the hull, put in a very heavy nuclear plant. {We can’t build hulls like those in the US now, We need heavy steel plants to (re)open first}

Michael J. Dunn
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 10, 2016 10:56 am

When I was in graduate school (mid 1970s) my lab director let me in on a very interesting not-so-secret. The DoE interest in fusion research was basically a pretext for research into the physics of fusion reactions…for the benefit of their nuclear weapon design theory. There was never any serious concern about producing commercial energy. The experiments were generally pointed at the ability to ignite a fusion reaction in laboratory circumstances, such that the reaction could proceed indefinitely (so-called breakeven energy margin).
The other not-so-secret was that any such reactor would produce copious radioactive waste in the form of a neutron-degraded “first wall” that would require complete replacement every decade. What to do with tons of radioactive steel? This was common knowledge then, and has been ever since…except of course among greenie media writers.
And the final detail was that the reactions easiest to ignite require tritium as one half of the fuel composition. Tritium does not occur in nature but must be produced by neutron bombardment of lithium, which requires fission reactors. Yes, you can run the whole show with deuterium (not all that easy to separate), but only at a much higher ignition temperature. Much tougher problem.
Like I say, this is Old News.

staspeterson BSME,MBA, MSMa
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 10, 2016 8:18 pm

I disagree. Fusion is now advancing beyond basic physics research to applied engineering design, I will wager any amount you wish that a grid contributing Fusion plant will be licensed and operating BEFORE any Molten Salt Fission reactor is licensed built and on the grid contributing,
Fission is inherently dirty, There is a large cache of radioactive materials. MSR eddy concentrations leading to fission output flares are extremely difficult to predict and design against, You underestimate the NRC licensing problems. The Operating temperatures are very high requiring teh development and use of exotic materials, . It took thirty years to merely license the improved Gen III+ designs that merely completed the designs that were immature but have over 100 reactors operating for years in the USA,
Fusion has no large cache of radioactive materials to be concerned about, and the Fusion will simply go out as candle in the midst of a hurricane. Getting it to simply function is very difficult and emergencies will cause automatic shutoff. The first Demonstration commercial detailed designs Fusion Plants,are ready to begin.

staspeterson BSME,MBA, MSMa
Reply to  staspeterson BSME,MBA, MSMa
December 10, 2016 8:29 pm

I would guess they might be trying to find funds to undertake a first commercial Fusion Power Plant design & build project. The technology is susceptible to where rocketry science was, at the beginning of Apollo. That would be a fundamental advance ending Energy questions for all time, and a world altering advance for all Mankind.

Michael J. Dunn
Reply to  staspeterson BSME,MBA, MSMa
December 15, 2016 1:20 pm

Need to dispose of radioactive first wall on a periodic basis. See my note above.

Reply to  Michael J. Dunn
December 15, 2016 1:50 pm

Need to dispose of radioactive first wall on a periodic basis.

True, but it will just be a lot of low level neutron irradiated inconel (probably), that will be safe in a fairly short period of time for such things.

Bloke down the pub
December 10, 2016 6:20 am

Very interesting post Willis. I suspect that the questions were an inside job. By the way, is that a typo in your response to question 37?

David L. Hagen
December 10, 2016 6:22 am

“Can you …” questions are very weak
They can be simply answered Yes/No!

Reply to  David L. Hagen
December 10, 2016 6:29 am

There is the response if they say “NO”
“Well if you can’t , your services are no longer required, as you obviously are not qualified, perhaps we will have better luck with your replacement.”

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Felflames
December 10, 2016 7:47 am

Or in other words:

Ron Konkoma
Reply to  David L. Hagen
December 10, 2016 8:13 am

Answering “no” is an admission of incompetence, which I suspect may be a leading indicator of a new application for unemployment benefits.

December 10, 2016 6:30 am

Just abolish the DOE. It is a dinosaur from the first energy hoax era of the ancient 70s.

Reply to  tabnumlock
December 10, 2016 12:01 pm

The threat to the military was very real. See my post at December 10, 2016 at 10:46 am.

Dermot O'Logical
December 10, 2016 6:32 am

I’m curious to know who wrote the questions. Where has this person/team been for the last 15 years?
Have they in fact been asking these questions and getting no traction, or have they just been waiting for the next Republican president?
The level of detail and knowledge of internals is really interesting.

Reply to  Dermot O'Logical
December 10, 2016 8:43 am

DOE transition team led by Mike McKenna. Worked at DOE under Bush (so knows where bodies are buried). Currently has Koch Industries as a client. You can bet he surrounded himself with a small smart group of knowledgable staffers, like lend lease Koch execs.