There Goes the Data: Major Cuts at EIA Washington

One of my greatest concerns coming out of the financial crisis of 2008 was that, eventually, free services like government data would be reduced or lost altogether. This afternoon I learned from EIA Washington that one of the cornerstones of my own work, and also the work of others globally, is about to be suspended: the gathering of International Energy Statistics. For me professionally, this is among the most important gateways to monthly data on global oil production. As I said, after 2008 I came to recognize my own professional dependency on this free data. But, I never actually expected to lose my access. Well, that’s always the way, isn’t it? Below is a portion of today’s EIA Press Release:

While I’ve not had time to look through the entire list of cuts, I did place a phone call to EIA Washington before publishing this post. I confirmed with an EIA spokesperson, Paul, that the cuts are immediate. While I may post again on this issue, the loss of such a large array of data is going to make work difficult for professionals across the energy, energy policy, environmental policy, and industrial and financial sectors. While we will still have IEA Paris data on a monthly basis—and BP Statistical Review data that comes once a year—EIA Washington produced alot of unique data of their own. This is big news. And, it’s bad news.

I have turned today’s full press release into a PDF, which you can access here: Immediate Reductions in EIA’s Energy Data.

-Gregor

  • http://twitter.com/gswstrat Geoffrey Styles

    Mind-numbing stupidity. The rhetoric out of DC suggests that the White House and Congress–both parties–see the US in an energy crisis, and the response is to cut back on collecting the data vital to understanding it. I understand the urgency of the deficit and debt problems, but to put this in perspective, the federal government spends the same amount of money it is cutting here in the cash grants subsidizing a single wind farm of just 25 MW, about as small as they come these days. The government needs to spend smarter, not just less.

  • gregor.us

    Yes and let’s also consider that the sums here, in the millions, are mere pennies compared to what the US is spending either on war–or, if you like–continuing to invest in the Auto-Highway complex.

    Best,

    G

  • http://www.ericgarland.co ericgarland

    This is not by accident. I remember in 1995, when Gingrich swept into Washington, one of the first agencies on the chopping block was the Office of Technology Assessment, the Congress’ internal think tank to advise policymakers on the potential impact of technology. The thought was, the last thing business needs is some bipartisan group of troublemakers funded to tell THEM about the future. They would be deciding what the future would look like, and they would tell the rest of the American people.

    This same group is first in line to try to defund the GAO, a group proven to save the taxpayer $10 for every dollar it pays its staff members.

    These people want blindness, back room dealing, command economies from on high. The last thing they want is a bunch of analysts referring to data and drawing their own conclusions.

  • gregor.us

    There’s no question, Eric, that this tiny budget cut in dollar terms but highly significant cut in informational terms, comes at a time when media, academia, the insurance industry, and the asset management industry are coming to terms with resource scarcity. It also comes at a time when EIA had just completed an overhaul, with a new website, and previous statements about getting better data out to the public.

    G

  • http://www.rossgreenspan.com rossgreenspan

    Call your Congressman and Senators and urge your readers to do the same?

  • andre_turcot

    Can’t have this kind of information in the public domain. People might actually start to figure out that the Ponzi fueled by cheap energy is coming to an end. File it under “National Security”

  • Anonymous

    I think your other readers said it best with their comments. But, I will just add, this is nothing short of keeping the masses ignorant about Peak Oil and what’s coming down the road in short order. Of course there are still many good sites, likes yours – to keep the few a breast of where we are.

  • curlyhoward1

    Yes indeed. There’s been quite a bit of chatter regarding the price of silver as of late, and perhaps rightly so. Taking the longer view however, crude oil and silver have increased in price almost exactly 10x since reaching their nodal lows back in the late nineties. Crude oil has in fact become more expensive in terms of gold. Dollars are becoming irrelevant and that’s got a lot of folks worried, perhaps most of all bond holders and underwriters.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve thought about this problem for a day. The solution maybe to file a Freedom of Information (FOIA) every month for the day to force the agency to fund public data requests. An even better solution maybe a series of websites that enable anyone to easily submit a FOIA request to any agency for data that should be available but will not because of idiotic budget cuts.

  • Anonymous

    Just to clarify for a concerned citizen who wants to call my Federal legislators:

    Is the information still being collected? But now will only be available to a limited number or type of people? Executive branch, some Congressional committees…who?

    Or, is it simply not going to be collected?

    Thanks much.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_V52DJI4CXMD6LEZXL3LKAJUO24 Campanelli

    Unfortunately, FOIA won’t do you any good – if they’re NOT tracking the data and analyzing and recording it then they are not creating an agency record, and as such there is nothing to disclose. FOIA only requires the feds to disclose something that they in fact have- it does not force them to create a document or report.

    This de-funding is a perfect example of “willfull blindness” — yes, if we all just shut our eyes and cover our ears that whole peak oil thing will just go away.

  • Anonymous

    Well, if they’re cutting back 14% and all those data collection and analysis efforts are being cut, what’s the other 86% going for?

  • gregor.us

    It’s not clear yet whether:

    1. EIA will still collect the data, but not pay people to publish it, organize it, etc.
    2. EIA will stop paying any or all various data providers, from whom they obtain the data, thus causing a discontinuity in the data collection.
    3. EIA will simply warehouse the data and release it say on an annual basis.
    4. EIA will have its funding restored.
    5. EIA will make a new decision, cutting funding to some other area, in order to restore funding to International Energy Statistics.

    I have talked with EIA folks about some of these issues, and there appears to be general disarray there about these matters.

    G

  • Anonymous

    How about making the EIA reports available for a nominal fee? Use the money collected to offset the budget cuts.

  • gregor.us

    Not a bad idea. But let’s consider that the wasteful billions in the US budget tower over the tiny millions that it cost to collect energy data. That said, nominal fees like a 1.99 per user would at least upgrade the importance of these reports. Perhaps US.Gov could move to an app model of pricing. On the other side of the equation, data collection in the EIA could start to align itself better with what users really want. So, to your point, introducing a small fee in many operations works for everyone. (National Park fee model, for example).

    G