Cupboards nearly bare for Obama’s cabinet picks

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President-elect Barack Obama’s staff will face many challenges in next four years.

NEWARK, Del. — James Butkiewicz, professor of Economics at the University of Delaware, says that although the Federal Reserve has pushed about as far as it can, and the incoming Obama administration is talking about an aggressive stimulus package, the country will still go through a very difficult period.

Treasury issues

“We should expect a difficult year regardless of what is done. It is going to take time to implement any package, so the first half of 2009 is going to be very weak. Rebuilding infrastructure and schools and creating green jobs is a wonderful idea, but that does not put people to work for several months at least.”

Energy policy

Mark Barteau, director of the Delaware Energy Institute and professor of chemical engineering, says the next secretary of energy’s plans “must cut through much of the ignorance, sloganeering and posturing that have characterized the public debate, including that in Congress.”

“Energy independence is a myth as long as our transportation system relies on the internal combustion engine,” Barteau said. “The threat of global climate change requires dramatic and painful shifts from business as usual.”

Barteau suggests government-imposed minimum prices for gasoline to break Americans of their bad energy habits.

Transportation

Ardeshir Faghri, director of the Delaware Center for Transportation and professor of civil and environmental engineering, said the U.S. faces a crumbling infrastructure and finding the money to fix it is not going to be easy.

Crumbling roads

“The first and foremost issue for the secretary of transportation is crumbling infrastructure. By that I mean falling bridges, roads, sewer systems, railroad tracks, highways, roadways, airports and seaports,” he said.

“However, people are driving less because of the tough economy and gas tax revenues are going down. So where is the next secretary going to get the money? He or she will have to fight for it.”

Faghri suggests the creation of a nationwide priority system for infrastructure improvement.

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