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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Eye on the net: new and notable From: Reference Reviews, Volume 22, Issue 6
Edward Abbey once said that “Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second”. I am a tea rather than coffee drinker, so it all tastes like swill to me. “It” being coffee, of course; I have not tried drinking gasoline. Yet. But if I thought I could run my car off of coffee, I might be tempted to start funneling Columbia Nariño Supremo blend into my Accord – I have a sneaking suspicion it might be cheaper. Driving by a service station these days nearly gives me an aneurism. And no, I am not here to debate the question of why it costs so much or what can be done about it. Yes, I know it costs more in other countries, ergo other people are getting hit even more than I am. And yes, I know that this column is supposed to be about new and notable internet resources, not clumsily polemic diatribes whining about petrol prices. So what the heck am I talking about? You will be pleased to know that I do actually have a relevant point. And it is not just to fill my word count (although I confess to seeing no harm in killing two birds with one stone…).
My point is that I am not the only one concerned about gas prices or the energy situation in general, and when these kinds of informational requests come up, there are a couple of nice online resources one can have on hand to help address them. The first is the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/) provided by the US Department of Energy. The Data Center is a “comprehensive clearinghouse of data, publications, tools, and information related to advanced transportation technologies”. It provides a wide range of information on all kinds of alternative fuels, in addition to information on options for petroleum reduction and fuel economy. Ever wondered what models car manufacturers are offering this year in the way of hybrid electric vehicles? Compressed natural gas? Ethanol-flexible fuel? The Data Center has the information you need. It is divided into large categories, including fuels, vehicles, fleets, incentives and laws, data, analysis and trends, and other informational resources. It allows you to compare vehicles, and even provides a cost calculator so you can see how they measure up to traditional vehicles (this includes the “fleet” option for businesses). Once you have purchased your alternative fuel vehicle, you are going to need to know where you can find the fuel to run it, and the Data Center helps out here as well. It includes an Alternative Fuel Station Locator which can be limited by type and searched by ZIP code, address, city, or state. The Center also has a publications database that contains over 3,000 (and counting) publications on energy and alternative fuels. This is backed by a robust search tool which, in addition to “quick pick” categories such as “emissions” or “fuel cells,” can be searched by keyword, title, author, and/or document number, and offers sorting by date.
Another site from the Department of Energy that concerned citizens will want to check out (which is actually linked on the Data Center as well) is www.fueleconomy.gov. It also provides information on hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, but is geared more towards those with traditional vehicles. It includes an evaluation tool for all types of cars which allows for comparison in the areas of gas mileage, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution ratings, and safety. It also provides some handy tips on car maintenance and efficient driving which can help increase miles per gallon. Drivers will particularly enjoy its gasoline price data for US cities feature, which provides links allowing them to find the lowest gas prices in their area. Another interesting element of the site is its FAQ section, which attempts to answer the burning question of exactly why gas prices are so high. It provides studies on gas prices and the oil market, as well as links to This Week in Petroleum, a publication put out by the Energy Information Administration (www.eia.doe.gov), which is yet another good source for this type of information.
And as a last resource, those seeking information on this topic may wish to take a look at the recently updated Gasoline Prices page from the University of Michigan Documents Center (www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/dn08/dn08gas.html). This simple, one-stop shop type of page features an informational overview and statistics on things like pump prices, crude oil prices per barrel, refiner production and sales, and oil company profits. It even offers a variety of links to articles about proposed solutions to the problem of rising prices (and the politicians who espouse these solutions).
Will any of these resources keep you from stroking out the next time you stop to fill up your car? Probably not. But they will provide you with answers to your energy questions, and helpful tips on how you can minimize your petrol pain.
Bethany LathamInternet Editor, Reference Reviews, Assistant Professor and Electronic Resources/Documents Librarian, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, AL, USA