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The crusade for credible energy information and analysis in the United States, 1973–1982

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Until the oil-based ‘energy crisis’ of 1973, the American Petroleum Institute and other private interests created the vast majority of energy statistics consumed in the United States. As the OPEC embargo set in, however, the American Petroleum Institute and the petroleum companies fell under a pall of perceived conspiracy. The US executive branch began creating its own statistics as part of the newly created Federal Energy Agency, but legislators quickly came to believe that the agency was purposely skewing the data to support the president’s policies. In this context, Congress set about, again, to create a statistics-building group, which became known as the Energy Information Administration, that would be ‘independent’ from both presidential and legislative politics and that could manufacture trust. This article argues that federal bureaucrats used various means, both interpersonal and mechanical (mathematical and statistical), to build credible energy information and analysis.
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Keywords: Energy Information Administration; energy politics; petroleum statistics; trust

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government,

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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