Efficiency is Stalled; Money is Sitting

The Washington Post reported yesterday that only 8% of the stimulus money that was targeted at energy efficiency has been distributed.  This is at least 18 months after the money was made available, so it really hasn't performed its function of "stimulating."  What's worse, though, is that this stimulus money was a really good idea.  It is supposed to:
  • Support local jobs and economies (energy efficiency jobs are always local)
  • Improve the efficiency of existing building stock
  • Reduce operating costs and utility bills, so that homeowners and building owners will have that money to use elsewhere in the economy
  • Provide the environmental benefit of burning less fossil fuels.
All of these great outcomes are being missed--mainly because of bureaucracy.  One of the biggest problems is that no one wants to send out money that might later be determined to have been misused.  I'm sure the Washington Post would have a big story if 80% of the money had gone out, but 5% of it had been fraudulently used.  It makes it virtually impossible to have these federal programs work.  The controls that are put in place keep the money from going bad, but they also keep a lot of the good money from getting out, too.

The other problem is that the money was layered.  DOE targeted the money to states and localities, who were supposed to develop plans for how to use it.  Many of those states and localities then hired consulting firms to help them develop plans.  Given the procurement process to get those contracts in place, time kept passing by--and it still is.

Also, a lot of the money was targeted in small amounts to small places, which seems nice and egalitarian.  Unfortunately, in small amounts, much of the money would end up getting pissed away just getting these places up to speed or putting in place the staffing or contractors who would be capable of doing the work.  I'll post another blog on this topic shortly.

So here we are--92% of the money is still lying around.  Used fairly intelligently it could make a huge difference.  Even if 5% got wasted, it's still worth getting out there.

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