By Kris FitzPatrick, Staff Editor
The U.S. Energy Information Administration is the small agency within the Department of Energy that compiles and analyzes data on domestic energy production and consumption. The average citizen has likely never heard of the EIA, but it is the primary data resource for policymakers, researchers, regulators, and industry personnel in the energy sector.
Despite the EIA’s critical role in a $1.2 trillion energy market, its budget was slashed by 14 percent this past April. According to a recent article in the December issue of the journal Nature Climate Change (available through Duke library here), the cutbacks are already having serious impacts on the EIA’s ability to do its job.
A group that included three former secretaries of state and a former president of Shell Oil sent a letter to the U.S. House and Senate in June criticizing the cut as excessive. Former administrator of the EIA and current Nicholas School of the Environment faculty member at Duke, Richard Newell, also signed the letter. Newell emphasized EIA’s role in collecting and reporting the baseline data that supports critical policy and business decisions. As he states in the afore-mentioned article, “When you’re driving at night in the rain, it’s not a good idea to turn off your headlights.”