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One Budget Cut That Will Make Us All a Little Dumber

The next time a politician waxes philosophic about the effect gas prices have on every day Americans, ask yourself this: Where are they getting this "up-to-date" information? Because this year, the Energy Department's statistical arm -- one really great source of unbiased, straight up data -- won't be able to fully analyze these politically charged energy issues because of cuts in the fiscal year 2011 spending bill.

Congratulations, Congress, for making us more ignorant while saving a measly $15.2 million. I really needed that nickel.

The spending bill signed into law by President Obama reduces the U.S. Energy Information Administration budget by $15.2 million, or 14 percent, from the fiscal year 2010 level, according to the government agency.

Exit: light. Enter: smoke
Why should you care? Thousands of people -- journalists, traders, industry analysts, policymakers, think tankers -- rely on this data to see trends in energy consumption, pricing, production and market value. The information helps us look ahead, heck maybe even prepare for changes before they actually happen.

Those folks working for you up on Capitol Hill use this information when drafting legislation or casting a vote that may ultimately affect the oil, gas, coal and renewable energy industries. The press uses this information to make sure politicians aren't putting facts into the wrong context, otherwise known as blowing smoke up our collective ass.

In short, we're all about to be a little bit less informed on a topic that effects every nook and cranny of our lives.

The EIA will curtail its efforts to understand links between physical energy markets and financial trading, and it will be forced to limit responses to requests from policymakers for special analyses. Meanwhile, the public will get even less information. The EIA will cut live telephone support at its customer contact center.

Here's coal in your stocking (not literally)
Curious what we'll be missing once the EIA cuts back? Try these:

  • 2011 edition of U.S. proved oil and natural gas reserves
  • Annual petroleum marketing data report
  • Audits of data from major oil and natural gas companies including 2010 financial performance
  • Overall energy consumption
  • Analysis on electricity and renewable energy
  • International energy statistics including the 2012 International Energy Outlook
  • Annual published inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions data
Photo from Flickr user Marco Bellucci, CC 2.0

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