W&J policy center debuts U.S. energy security index

Posted April 24, 2012

By Michael Bradwell

Washington & Jefferson College's Center for Energy Policy and Management Monday announced the creation of an Energy Security Index, a one-of-a-kind logarithm that measures the energy security of the United States.

During a brief presentation as part of the college's Energy Summit, Dr. Leslie Dunn and her husband, Dr. Robert Dunn, both assistant professors of economics at W&J, discussed their work on the measurement tool, which is intended to provide the public with an unbiased barometer for measuring the progress of the United States toward energy independence and energy security.

Leslie Dunn said the index provides the information by translating a complex set of data about energy development, imports and consumption into straightforward terms the general public can understand.

She noted, based on historical data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, she was able to calculate the country has a current score of 74 percent, meaning that nearly three-quarters of the energy used comes from domestic sources.

Robert Dunn explained the historical data can be used to interpret a number of energy trends. He noted, for instance, the data, which has been collected since 1949, shows during the administration of President Harry Truman, 95.16 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S. was from domestic sources. By the time Richard Nixon was president, that figure had fallen to 85.74 percent; declined to 75.87 percent during the Clinton administration and currently stands at 73.16 percent under President Obama.

In another extrapolation of energy data, he showed the West has led the four regions of the country in the percentage of energy it consumed that was produced within its boundaries, at 92.09 percent, followed closely by the South with 90.98 percent. Those regions are followed by the Midwest at 34.13 percent, and the Northeast at 30.31 percent. The figures are based on consumption from 1960 to 2009.

The Dunns also used the historical data to track gasoline prices, noting in 1976, gasoline averaged $2.38 per gallon, fell to $1.44 in 1998, and climbed to $3.58 in 2010.

W&J President Dr. Tori Haring-Smith said the school plans to release additional data from the index on a quarterly basis.

The CEPM is led by Diana Stares, who previously served as regional counsel at the state Department of Environmental Protection, overseeing all of the legal work performed from the Pittsburgh office of the DEP.

Under Stares' leadership, CEPM initiatives include working to foster the use of compressed natural gas as a vehicle fuel, convening a group that evaluated the mechanics and economics of converting existing gasoline-powered vehicles and establishing fueling stations to support those vehicles.

Copyright Observer Publishing Co.