WASHINGTON -- The price of energy is artificially depressed in
this country, Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary said in an interview on
the eve of her departure from office, and Americans will not be
serious about conservation or energy independence until the price
goes up or there is another shock.
O'Leary also said members of Congress do not care nearly so much
about making the right technology choices in handling nuclear waste
and weapons as they do about jobs in their districts.
And no future secretary of energy will undertake trade missions
foreign governments, because of the flak she caught for her trip
expenses, she said, and as a result, America's competitors will
into countries that want new technology or services and are
accustomed to dealing government to government and "go laughing all
the way into the next meeting with the minister."
O'Leary said she was exhausted by the last four years and that
anyone who stayed longer in the job was "probably certifiable." She
said she would continue working with black organizations, especially
those concerned with education in science and other fields.
President Clinton has nominated Federico Pena, who has been
secretary of transportation for the last four years, to replace her.
In the last few days she has renewed a campaign of "openness,"
announcing that thousands of films of early nuclear weapons tests
would be declassified, and giving information on plutonium left by
the United States in South Vietnam 20 years ago. Whatever follows,
she said, the culture of secrecy has been broken.
O'Leary was interviewed in her seventh-floor office at the Energy
Department, with its northern wall of windows giving both a stunning
view of the castle-like Smithsonian headquarters and a perpetual
chill. She, like her predecessors, uses an energy no-no to
supplement the inadequate central heating system: an electric space
O'Leary, who served in the Energy Department in the Carter
administration and was an executive at the electric company Northern
States Power when President Clinton named her secretary of energy,
said she did not want another government job.
She said that she had tried within the constraints of the budget
to nurture alternative fuel and energy technologies. The prevailing
view, she said, is that "somehow, miraculously, the market will
present itself" for technologies like fuel cells, which make
electricity from liquid hydrocarbons, and photovoltaic cells, which
can make electricity from sunlight. …