When President Jimmy Carter and the U.S. Congress created the U.S. Department of Energy, little did Americans know at the time that pencil-pushing bureaucrats would slowly and silently create a colossus centralized government power.
To understand the rationale for suddenly creating a bureaucracy, one must be familiar with the Carter Administration. Arguably the worst president in U.S. history, Carter faced double-digit inflation, domestic and foreign policy failures, and a fuel shortage so severe that drivers would actually shoot or beat someone who dared to jump the gas lines that stretched for numerous city blocks.
In an attempt to bring order -- at least, at gas stations -- drivers were allowed to buy gasoline on alternate days according to odd or even numbers on their license plates. If you license ended in an even number you could gas up on Monday. Odd number? Tuesday was your day.
In addition to the shortage, gasoline prices skyrocketed as well, in turn contributing to double-digit inflation.
Formed as a result of this gasoline crisis by President Carter's signing of legislation named The Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977, the original responsibility of the fledgling agency was energy policy.
Eventually, the Secretary of Energy included the nation's nuclear weapons program, nuclear reactor production for the United States Navy, energy conservation, energy-related research, radioactive waste disposal, and domestic energy production to the department's list of government responsibility.
DOE is today involved in more basic and applied scientific research than any other US federal agency. It is President Barack Obama who unveiled a $26.4 billion budget request for DOE for fiscal year 2011, including $2.3 billion for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Obama's budget aims to substantially expand the use of renewable energy sources while improving energy transmission infrastructure. It also makes significant investments in hybrids and plug-in hybrids, in smart grid technologies, and in scientific research and innovation.
As part of the $789 billion economic stimulus package in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress provided Energy with an additional $38.3 billion for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, adding about 75 percent to Energy's annual budgets. Most of the stimulus spending was in the form of grants and contracts.
As with any government entity, the DOE is constantly growing in size and power. For example, a new regulation will impact every single household in the nation in the coming months.
Under the new law to be enforced by the DOE, all light bulbs must use 25% to 30% less energy than today's products by 2012 to 2014. The phase-in will start with 100-watt bulbs in 2012 and end with 40-watt bulbs in 2014. By 2020, bulbs must be 70% more efficient.
Incandescent bulbs were invented over 120 years ago, and environmentalists claim they could be replaced by many superior technologies if only the right regulations and financial incentives were put in place.
The alternative to the incandescent bulb is the Compact Fluorescent Lamp. However, observers believe CFLs present their own environmental problems.
"These bulbs contain mercury. That's the only way they can work. The mercury vapor reacts to electricity to produce the light," said Paul Hemingway writing on presidential candidate Ron Paul's web site.
"This is another case of the cart before the horse. With rare exception, there is no safe way to dispose of these bulbs. They are ending up in landfills and lots of them are broken. The mercury will be seeping into the ground and our water supplies," he wrote.
"A few states were fighting against the ban on incandescent light bulbs. Now they are backing away from it. This is just another major government intrusion into our lives," said conservative political strategist Michael Baker.
To date, over 30 countries (including the members of the European Union, the US, China and Australia) have had a look at the available lighting technologies and decided that the case for the banning of domestic incandescent light bulbs stacks up.
Radical environmentalists in Britain claim the UK's ban of incandescent bulbs will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 2-3 million tons. Similarly the EU's annual emissions will be reduced by 23 million tons. Meanwhile, the Chinese government's decision to stop manufacturing 70% of the world's incandescent light bulbs will reduce the world's annual carbon emissions by even more, according to some environmentalists.
But it's the United States that is setting the standards for the world when it comes to environmental issues and Republicans in the White House and in the legislature appear ready to go along with the wishes of militant environmentalists.
And so, quietly we go like sheep to the slaughter.
Nathan Tabor is Chairman of NC Energy Forum