Radio host fails to explore ramifications of Gardner’s idea to possibly eliminate U.S. Department of Energy

Everyone remembers Gov. Rick Perry’s magnificent “Oops moment,” during the Republican presidential primary, when he suggested cutting three, count ‘em, three federal agencies: the 1) Education Department, 2) Commerce Department, and 3) ???????????????.

Who remembers the last one?

It was the Energy Department!

It looks like Rep. Cory Gardner would have been able to get the words “Energy Department” out of his mouth if he’d been in Perry’s shoes, because our Congressman from the 4th Congressional District has the Energy Department on his own list for possible elimination.

On KFKA radio’s Amy Oliver Show Tuesday, Gardner suggested that the federal Energy Department is “something we ought to look at and see whether or not they are actually justified to be there anyway.”

OLIVER: Give me your thoughts on – and I’m sure you’ve heard—you served with him when you were in Legislature and he was the governor of the state of Colorado, the idea that Governor Bill Ritter is on the short list for Energy Secretary.

GARDNER: [chuckles] Governor Ritter is a nice guy. And I’m sure, you know, he is somebody you’d love to have a beer with. I was never invited, I don’t think, [laughing] to have a beer with him, but if you were I’m sure he’d be a nice guy to have a beer with! But I don’t think he’s the right person for the Secretary of Energy. In fact, Energy Department is something we ought to look at and see whether or not they are actually justified to be there anyway. So, let’s have a conversation about what we can do to consolidate and eliminate some of these spending programs, especially programs that aren’t working because of Solyndras and other wasted program spending. And I don’t think Bill Ritter is the right one to lead that conversation.

Full transcript and audio here.

You’d think KFKA host Amy Oliver, who rails against federal agencies like the EPA, would have been ecstatic, after hearing Gardner’s comments. I thought she might have said something like, “I was dying when Rick Perry couldn’t spit out ‘Energy Department,’ and you did it so eloquently, with no oops or hesitation. Thank you.”

But she stayed calm, like she did in 2011 when Gardner suggested on Oliver’s program that the Department of Transportation should be eliminated. He later changed his tune.

Oliver asked Gardner if there was sufficient political will to eliminate the Energy Department:

OLIVER: …I know that there isn’t the political will to eliminate the Department of Energy, even though I would love that. Is there ever any conversation about at least, not just reducing the amount of growth, but simply cutting a department’s budget?

GARDNER: That’s exactly what I meant by saying a decrease in the rate of increase isn’t enough. We have got to cut department spending, and I think that yes, if you look at the budget that we passed out of the House, we eliminated entire agencies and programs. Now, there were conversations early on last year about eliminating the Department of Commerce, or consolidating Department of Commerce with various functions.

It’s no fun to talk about specifics when you’ve got the budget ax out, but right then, at that point in the interview, would have been a great time for Oliver to get specific with Gardner about what Energy Department programs might be cut.

The renewable energy research budget? Nuclear weapons production and maintenance? Energy conservation? Fossil fuel and nuclear research programs? All of it?

Oliver knows a fair amount about energy issues. She had a great moment to trot out an intelligent question, or a specific question on what she’d cut, but she failed us, leaving the job to a reporter who cares about meaningful public-policy debate, not just bloviation.

Oops.

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