:: I've been meaning for some time to sing the praises of the web site of the Energy Information Administration: Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government. When I work with chemical engineering design students, inevitably some of them will require oil and gas prices while working on their design projects. On my Resource Guide for Chemical Engineering, I created a section called Chemical and Petroleum Industry: Statististics, Prices and Production, where as many good sources for chemical and petroleum/energy prices of which I am aware are listed.
I discovered the Energy Information Administration serendipitously in September, while checking for updates on the Natural Gas Annual. As I began to investigate the site more thoroughly, I became more impressed with each clickthrough.
The site seems to have been designed by a person or persons well versed in creating user-friendly web sites with an nod towards rock solid usability. Visit the site, and you are greeted with two sets on menus: one asks, "How do you want to access energy information?", giving the options: by geography, fuel, sector or price. The other menu asks, "Or would you like to access specific subject areas?", and offers process, environment, forecast and analyses options. Immediately, you can consider how you want to navigate the site to find your data.
The types of energy for which data are provided include: petroleum, electricity, renewable energy (including solar thermal, alternative-fueled vehicles, wood, photovoltaic cells), natural gas, and coal.
Often our students are searching for historical data, including crude oil prices from years past. The page with links to US Petroleum Data is outstanding. Historical data is available in .xls format, which permits users to export the data to spreadsheets for further analysis. Check weekly crude oil spot prices back to January 1986 in Excel format. In addition, links are provided to papers providing analyses of market outlooks, prices, trends, and so on.
It gets better. Find a publication in which you are interested, and the site tells you when it was posted, and when the next update will be. For example, the Monthly Energy Review: as of this posting, the September 2004 issue is available. The page tells us it was posted on September 28, 2004, and the next issue will be posted in the last week of October, 2004. Basic and brilliant. Not sure of which aspect of your chosen energy source you are interested? Scan by topic - petroleum topics, for example. The site isn't restricted to US data. International data and information are provided.
Applying web site evaluation criteria, including usability, accuracy, currency, authority, scope, objectivity and purpose, and the conclusion is: this site rocks.