Gov’t Spent $2.6 Million On ‘Drought Sculptures’ And $210K On Solar-Powered Beer

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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Is $2.6 million too much for artistic expressions of California’s drought? What about $210,000 for solar-powered beer? Apparently not for the federal government, according to a new report by Congress detailing government waste and abuse.

Arizona Republican Sen. [crscore]Jeff Flake[/crscore] released this year’s “Wastebook” detailing ways federal agencies wasted billions of taxpayers dollars, from keeping the lights on in vacant buildings to giving breweries tax dollars to install solar panels.

“In Afghanistan, the Department of Defense squandered $110 million lighting and heating hundreds of empty buildings while soldiers in Kandahar went days without lights or heat,” reads Flake’s report. “DOD pumped $43 million into the construction of the world’s most expensive gas station that dispenses a type of fuel very few automobiles in that country run on.”

“More than $700,000 of military supplies to assist Yemen fight terrorists are wasting away in warehouses in Virginia incurring storage fees and now must be destroyed at an additional cost to taxpayers,” according to Flake’s report. “The National Football League and professional sports teams intercepted millions of dollars of Pentagon contracts that included putting on displays of paid patriotism.”

Flake’s report compiled 101 instances of government waste in this year’s report, so The Daily Caller News Foundation has compiled some of the most ridiculous instances of government misspending taxpayer dollars.

1. $2.6 Million For “Drought Sculptures”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) spent $2.6 million on an initiative that “uses the arts to spark a more creative approach to tackling a variety of problems such as water resources in San Diego, urban nutrition in Chicago and transportation alternatives in Worcester, Mass. Teams use jazz improvisation, visual and spoken word poetry to help develop new ways of solving problems.”

NSF gave one team, called the Dewers, money to make a sculpture that “squeezes moisture from the atmosphere” — yes, like the moisture farms in Star Wars. The group hopes to extract “up to one gallon of water daily per 300 square feet per night under favorable conditions.”

Such technology is used in other parts of the world to get water from fog banks, but it’s still unclear on how a weird art sculpture will put a dent in California’s water problem.

2. $1 Billion A Year For A Defunct Nuclear Waste Site

Washington state’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation is costing taxpayers $1 billion a year without treating any of the nuclear waste or cleaning up the site. The Department of Energy has already spent $19 billion in the last 25 years with no waste being treated, and efforts to begin cleaning the waste were abandoned three years ago.

Flake notes “the project continues costing about $1 billion a year and the tanks holding the country’s ‘largest collection of radioactive waste’ are deteriorating, making it a growing threat to the environment and taxpayers.”

3. It Only Cost EPA $8 Million To Turn This River Orange

Remember when the Environmental Protection Agency spilled three million gallons of toxic mine waste into U.S. waterways? That mishap is costing taxpayers $8 million in cleanup costs — costs that could potentially skyrocket to $28 billion in the coming years.

EPA workers working with heavy equipment broke open the Gold King Mine, unleashing toxic waste that contaminated water across Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. At one contaminated site, EPA found lead levels “3,580 times higher than federal standards for human drinking water.”

The EPA also found “levels of arsenic were more than 24 times the exposure limit for fish and 823 times the level for human ingestion Cadmium was found at more than six times the aquatic limit, 33 times that for humans.”

An Interior Department review of the spill found it could have been completely avoided if the EPA had taken proper precautions before opening up the mine. The EPA has yet to fire or punish those responsible for causing the spill.

4. USDA Spends $100 Million Building Ethanol Pumps No One Uses

The Agriculture Department is always looking for ways to circumvent Congress and give money to the ethanol industry, according to Flake’s report. This year alone, USDA spent $100 million in 21 states building fuel pumps that dispense higher levels of ethanol despite the huge danger it poses to most car engines.

Apart from being harmful to the environment, ethanol also hurts fuel efficiency in vehicles because it’s less energy dense than gasoline. The ethanol industry has gotten billions of dollars in federal subsidies over the years, all while pushing for the government to allow for higher ethanol blends to be allowed in fuel.

5. $210,000 For Solar-Powered Beer

The USDA is also apparently interested in making sure its beer is created using “green” energy.

One company, Throwback Brewery, got $40,000 to “install a solar system tied to the grid, providing revenue.”

Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery in Ohio got the USDA to to pay for $44,119 of the $176,500 it will cost to install 298 solar panels on the brewery’s roof. Short’s Brewery in Michigan got a $35,000 USDA grant to install rooftop solar panels.

USDA grants were on top of existing federal tax subsidies for solar panels, which also helped lower the price. Flake notes “Maine Beer Co., for example, recently installed over 200 solar panels at a cost over $200,000, 55 percent of which was offset by the combination of a federal tax credit and a USDA grant.”

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact