Inside EIA’s New Open Government Beta Site

A quintillion.

It’s one of those crazy numbers (a 1 followed by 18 zeros) only seen in computer science and trigonometry classes, but it represents a new wave of open government at the Energy Information Administration.

Earlier this month, the agency launched a beta site featuring its already standing products, but with an enhanced visualization aspect to make it easier for users to interact with data from hardcore researchers and analysts to everyday citizens.


“We wanted to create a site that was friendly to use, but also had the ability to let users go as far into the data as they liked,” said EIA Office of Web Management Director Mark Elbert in an interview with FedScoop.

The site includes more than a quintillion combinations of data that users can graph any way they like, Elbert said. The site is also built on open source technologies including javascript and JWics to make the data easily accessible for developers to take and build applications around.

One of the keys to the site going forward, Elbert said, will be the agency’s interaction with its user base. He said the EIA wants to solicit as much user feedback as possible and let the users guide the features on the site and how the agency can best present them with information.

“This is a major push in open government to create a site that is built completely with the users in mind,” Elbert said.

The charts are produced on-the-fly by browser-based graphing technology. No plugins are required, and the graphing works in any major, modern browser. Users can save the source data in Excel for their own analysis or save the graphs themselves to their computer via an export function.


Both the novice and expert can tailor EIA’s energy data to create graphics at the click of a mouse to show energy trends hidden in petroleum, natural gas and electricity data, such as:

  • Comparing one state’s current gasoline prices with other states or the national average, and how those pump prices have changed from previous years.
  • Tracking U.S. monthly natural gas production and compare the growth from prior years.
  • Following changes in the amount of U.S. electricity generated by coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar.

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