ENERGY OUTLOOK - DALE STEFFES A MISGUIDED DOE IS MISPLACING MISSION OF ENERGY SECURITY

ENERGY OUTLOOK - DALE STEFFES A MISGUIDED DOE IS MISPLACING MISSION OF ENERGY SECURITY

The U.S. Department of Energy is not dedicated to performing its original mission, maintaining the nation's energy security. Instead, it is now devoted solely to maintaining the security of the DOE.

This tactic is very shortsighted. If the DOE concentrated on its original mission, the need for the department would automatically resolve itself. The more it tries to maintain itself for individual benefits, the more it is destined to fail.A couple of key DOE managers did not wait around to see if there would continue to be a DOE - they recently left the department. Susan Tierney, assistant secretary for policy, left two weeks ago to return to the Boston area. Bill White,'deputy secretary, recently announced his departure for mid- August.

There is probably a lot of anxiety among the remaining 17,000 DOE employees and the 149,000 contract employees, as there should be. Not much useful work gets done when you have 166,000 people all working primarily to save their own jobs.

THE NATIONAL-DEFENSE ANALOGY

The argument can be made and defended that a successful oil embargo against the United States is highly unlikely today. This is because oil is fungible and there is no current world shortage of supply. However, the United States is more dependent on foreign oil than ever before, and it is rapidly increasing its dependency.

The parallel argument could be made that a successful war against the United States is highly unlikely, so why does the United States have a $300 billion military budget in times of peace? Is it so we can send 500,000 troops to the Middle East to put down a regional dispute, and preserve the independence of international oil suppliers? Most likely, all national- security arguments intuitively include this oil-supply scenario, because of our recent Gulf War experience.

The secretary of energy, Hazel O'Leary, made a keynote presentation at the International Association of Energy Economists' annual meeting this month in Washington, D.C. The title of her presentation was "Energy Matters." This clever title has a double meaning - one being that energy does matter, and the other, matters pertaining to energy. She tried to cover both meanings, all the while stressing the importance of her Department of Energy.

In her presentation, she stressed many of the things that the DOE is doing for the good of our country and the world. One was that the DOE is helping domestic energy companies deal with various foreign governments. Her example was building electrical power plants in India.

NOT A JOB FOR MOTHER TERESA

The secretary has traveled to India twice, revisiting a village on her second trip to fulfill a promise to its residents. A very big part of her presentation in Washington was an enlarged photo of herself with some children

from the village.

Ms. O'Leary stressed that what the mother of these children really wanted was electricity in the village, so the children could learn to read and eventually obtain a college education. The secretary's actions were very well- intentioned, but her job description does not call for her to be another Mother Teresa.

Many domestic "mom and pop" oil companies would like to have a picture of their children with the secretary of energy.

Today's industrial economies are highly dependent on the various forms of energy, especially oil. In today's world, oil is quite often used as a political and economic weapon. The State Department is always quick to use this weapon in its dealings with Libya, Iran, Iraq and North Korea. And if you agree with the book "Victory," the Cold War was largely won with the oil weapon.

When and if the United States ever becomes vulnerable to an oil-supply disruption, our status as the world's remaining superpower will be over. It will mean that the United States can be manipulated by outside influences. Whether the rest of the world acknowledges it or not, the world needs the United States as the benevolent, authoritative superpower it is. The rest of the Group of 7 countries may act like they want superpower status, but these countries are not really up to this monumental task.