With this headline — “Golden’s NREL to shed more than 10 percent of workforce” — Golden’s National Renewable Energy Lab made national news on Monday.
I’ve been skeptical of NREL spokesman Bob Noun’s “blame Congress” and “Washington gridlock” sob story over a possible 1.5 percent reduction in funding, considering NREL has enjoyed a 63.4 percent increase in taxpayer cash over the last few years.
Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s office, which represents the district in which NREL is located, didn’t help when it overreacted as well. Perlmutter’s spokeswoman Leslie Oliver (no relation) lamented to the Denver Post‘s Chuck Plunkett:
cuts at the “crown jewel” in the nation’s green energy development represented a setback “that is a concern.”
“What about next year?” Oliver said. “Where do this stop?”
To me, the reactions to a possible 1.5 percent reduction seemed over the top, especially considering the current economic situation, as Matthew Boyle of the Daily Caller reported:
Amy Oliver of Colorado’s conservative Independence Institute said one way to look at these potential “green jobs” shortcomings is that the NREL is exaggerating its claims. Oliver told The Daily Caller that the government-funded lab has seen a surge in government funding in recent years.
“Their funding for 2008 was $328 million,” Oliver said in a phone interview. “In 2010 it was $536.5 million. They’ve had a 64 percent increase in their funding during the Obama administration.”
Oliver acknowledges that the $8 million NREL projects in savings is a significant amount, and told TheDC she was impressed to learn that its leadership would even consider cutting their budget. But, she says, while the saved $8 million doesn’t represent a real budget cut, it’s a better outcome than more spending.
A little background information about Noun is enlightening. According to his bio from the Denver University Sturm School of Law where Noun serves as an adjunct professor, prior to joining NREL in 1979 Noun was legislative director and counsel for science and technology policy for democrat Congressman Thomas Harkin of Iowa.
Over the last several election cycles, Noun and his wife have contributed to Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s campaigns as Open Secrets reveals:
Now the reactions make sense, especially since the budget math does not.