Science & Technology
7:27 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Washington & Jefferson College Launches Index for National Energy Data

Washington & Jefferson College hopes to elevate the debate over America's energy policy with a new index of annual data from the federal government.

The college's Center for Energy Policy and Management will oversee the new Energy Index. CEPM Director Diana Stares said the database will provide lawmakers with unbiased information.

"That's one of the things we hope to accomplish with the Center, is to encourage other parties to see both sides of the issue, and to have a civilized discussion about these things," said Stares, "not to become accusatory and not to take positions, but really just to try to sit and listen to the facts."

Annual data from the Energy Information Administration is fed into a logarithm that presents the data in a number of ways. For example, the Index tracks the percentage of America's domestic energy consumption under the past twelve presidential administrations. It also tracks the price of gas, and presents regional information as well.

But W&J President Dr. Tori Haring-Smith said in addition to recording historical data, the Index can respond to current events.

"For example, if Iran closed the Straits of Hormuz, we could go into the Index at times when similar disruptions occurred, to see what that did in terms of our energy independence," said Haring-Smith. "We could also examine how much is imported from that region, and quite quickly begin to provide the media and the public and legislators with a sense of what the impact of an act like that might be."

Haring-Smith said one aspect that distinguishes this particular energy index is the depth of regional data.

"What it really tracks is how well a region makes use of its local resources in its own backyard," said Haring-Smith. "That affects the cost of energy for that region, it affects the amount of transportation that's needed (which, of course, has environmental impact), but it also says something about the potential environmental degradation to the host regions. So, it's got both positive and negative aspects."

W&J faculty will give a presentation on the index to congressional staffers this June, according to Haring-Smith.