How government works: What they mean by 'urgency'

Everyone would love to have an electric car that went from 0-60 MPH in about 7 seconds, had a range of 1,000 miles before recharging, and had the styling to make your neighbors green with envy.

Well, Congress passed an appropriation for it back in 2007 - $25 billion for research and development of such a car when George Bush was president. They didn't get around to actually appropriating the money for it until last September, though.

And there that money sits - despite applications galore from start ups and the big three - waiting for the Energy Department to get its act together:

With General Motors and Chrysler making repeat visits to Washington to ask for bailout money to stave off insolvency, some members of Congress are starting to ask why the Energy Department money is not flowing yet. The loans also are intended to help fulfill President Obama’s campaign promise of putting one million electric cars on American roads by 2015.

“Politicians are breaking down the door asking why the money isn’t being sent out,” said Michael Carr, counsel to the Senate Energy Committee, which oversees the Energy Department.

It is a question that Lachlan W. Seward, director of the program, says he hears a lot these days. “We’re moving with a sense of urgency,” said Mr. Seward, who also oversaw the Chrysler Loan Guarantee Board from 1981 to 1984. “But at the same time we are trying to do this in a responsible way that reflects prudent credit policy and taxpayer protections.”

Energy Department staff members said they were still sifting through loan applications, dozens of which arrived on the filing deadline of Dec. 31. On top of that, another $2 billion is coming to the department from the $787 billion stimulus package. That money will be used to develop the advanced battery technology needed to power electric cars, batteries more durable, safer and cheaper than anything available today.

So this is the fellow's idea of a "sense of urgency?" If the stimulus money is going to take that long to get circulating in the economy, it will do a world of good - for the next recession we have. In the meantime, we have another prized illustration of the difference between the private sector and the government. There is "normal" time for you and me and then there's "government time" for Washington.

I actually prefer government time because it moves so much slower. Our life expectancies would double if everyone was on government time. The one minute egg would become the several minute egg. Lunch breaks would be two hours instead of one.

Maybe Congress should appropriate $25 billion to get the government on our time.

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