Hazel O'leary's Parting Shot
Energy Secretary Hazel R. O'Leary, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, has left office, to be replaced by former Transportation Secretary Federico Pena. While Ms. O'Leary has some major accomplishments to her credit, she was forced out because her extravagant trade missions deeply offended Congress and the public. Still, on the eve of her departure, she had much to say about energy that is worth listening to.
In a New York Times interview, she reiterated the fact that energy remains artificially cheap in America and that even a minor disruption in supply by one of the key nations from which this country imports so much oil could produce a severe price shock. But the public and Congress don't seem to care. Instead, they remain enamored of the idea of selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a crisis; indeed, some have even suggested such sales to cut the budget deficit.
Ms. O'Leary also complained that the Energy budget doesn't contain enough money to continue to promote effectively modern technologies such as fuel and photovoltaic cells, which are generously subsidized in Germany and Japan and consequently may be brought to a higher state of perfection there first. …