The April edition of U.S. News & World Report was their Energy and Environment issue and had a wealth of great information on the "Green Economy". One of their articles was "The Trouble With the Numbers" and highlighted the Energy Information Agency (EIA), run by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the fact that some of EIA's statistics may be incomplete due to budget shortfalls at the agency.
The main concern of the article was that the agency responsible for providing information on how the U.S. consumes its energy (one of the most important national issues) is underfunded and not adequately meeting the needs of citizens and policymakers. The article didn't place blame with EIA, but with the people who control how they get money.
If you've read any of my blogs on Monitoring, you know I'm a big fan. How can wise decisions be made on how energy is consumed if there is no data to back up those decisions? This goes for individual homeowners, or our policy makers in Washington.
Personally, I'm a HUGE fan of the EIA. Not only do they have tons of data, but it is in easily accessible formats and they have great summary reports. I've downloaded their data into excel and made my own charts, like the one at the bottom of my Electricity Graphics page. One of the most important graphics I think they have is below and it shows the U.S. electricity generation by fuel source. I found it from their 2007 Annual Electric Power summary but I could have also made my own from the raw data.
Generation Pie Chart
What this shows is how the U.S. generates its power. I look at this graph about once every three months, but most recently, it was because of this insanely ignorant comment on the message board seen here and had to do with a man who built an electric car:
"...Just imagine everyone in your city plugging their cars in at night to charge them up, do you really think that the cost would still be .70 cents per gallon (me: he means oil equivalent)? Not sure if you guys are up on current events but we get our electricity from.....you guessed it.....OIL!!! Geeeeeeeeez"
What drives me absolutely nuts is that there is a large majority of our population (including a lot of politicians) who actually think we get a large percentage of our electricity from OIL!!! This is why EIA is so important! Look at the graph above. Under "petroleum (aka: Oil)" we get 1.6% of our power from Oil. Less than 2%. We consume most of our oil in the transportation sector, not power generation! How can we move forward to a "clean energy" economy if the public is too ignorant to make the first steps?
I can't tell you how many times I've heard politicians say (especially when Oil was over $100 a barrel): "We need more alternative energy, wind, solar, nuclear (me: these are electric power generation technologies) to lower our reliance on foreign oil (me: transportation)." This is an important distinction. The next time you hear a politician make a statement like this, you know he a) doesn't read MapAWatt blog and b) has no clue what he is talking about and is just trying to get you to vote for him.
The EIA exists to provide information so we (the public) can form educated thoughts in our heads. Information is vital to forming policy in your own house, in your business and in your country. Whether data is received by power monitoring or through an organization like the EIA, what is important is that the data is available so people can use that data to make good, sustainable decisions.