Intrigued by the sight of entire vacant federal buildings illuminated at night, Andrea McCarren, a reporter for WUSA-TV, has spent the last several months monitoring the amount of money spent on electric bills for various departmental HQ's in Washington, DC. 

Hundreds of nights and many Freedom of Information Act requests later, McCarren has announced her astounding findings.

Electric bill per month:

Department of Labor = $1,000,000 (July 2010)

Department Health and Human Services = $799,000 (August 2010)

Department of Commerce = $794,000 (June 2010)

Department of Energy = $260,000 (average)

These and other buildings McCarren tracked average $200,000 to $1,000,000 each in monthly electricity bills. It makes sense that the folks at the Department of Energy should have a lower bill than their counterparts; after all, it’s their business.  Perhaps other agencies should follow their example: Department of Energy employees have a continuing intramural competition to see which offices can most decrease their energy usage.  Even so, a quarter of a million in taxpayer dollars every month—just for electricity—is shocking.    

A lot of these expenses seem to result from carelessness: according to McCarren, the Department of Transportation appears to “have the majority of their lights on” at night, despite being locked up after hours.  DoT records show additional “late fees” for delayed payment of its light bill.  The Department of Education always leaves a few floors glowing in the dark.

Finally, our personal favorite: the Environmental Protection Agency is lit up after hours like the Fourth of July.