Government agencies are easily born, but they never seem to die. Rarely do they even fade away. But at 5 P.M. today the Government’s Synthetic Fuels Corporation closed its doors forever.
The few employees who were still around the modern office at 2121 K Street packed up the last boxes, transferred the few remaining files for caretaking by the Treasury Department and turned off the lights. The normal hustle and bustle of a Washington bureaucracy had been replaced by empty offices and deserted hallways.
The Congressionally chartered corporation was plagued by controversy since its creation in 1980 by the Carter Administration to provide financial incentives, such as loan guarantees and a guaranteed purchase price, to the private sector for creation and production of synthetic fuels.
Doubts About Function
But the decline of oil prices over the last few years led members of Congress members to question the wisdom of pouring millions of dollars into what have been termed questionable projects. The agency was also a victim of the drive to balance the budget, facing criticism for what were deemed unrealistically high salaries for corporation officials.
”It was politically expedient to criticize because it didn’t cost anyone any votes – we never had a really viable lobbying operation,” said Richard E. Miller, comptroller and vice president of the defunct agency.
At the end, the mood of the few employees still left was as gloomy as the empty offices and hallways, plastered with signs and banners reading, ”It’s All Over, Baby!” and ”Empty the House.”
”A lot of us worked pretty hard and believed thoroughly in what we were doing,” said Mr. Miller. ”There was a very talented and dedicated staff. Now it’s a little traumatic to see all these empty offices.”
Despite the problems, some employees said they were surprised on Dec. 19, 1985, when Congress, in effect, signed the agency’s death certificate. ”It was somewhat of a shock because they had down-scaled the agency in 1984 and allowed us to continue,” a former employee said. Congress reduced the agency’s original budget of $20 billion to $14 billion in 1984 and to $7.89 billion in 1985. The original staff of 225 employees was also reduced.
Notice From Congress