Unfortunately, federal data collection has declined, despite the growth of interest in energy-related data due to cascading energy crises over the past decade and increasing concerns about climate change. In recent years, several important energy data collection programs have been eliminated entirely, and many other data series have been significantly diminished because of reduced scope and sample size.
The EIA has been steadily under-funded for years, suffering under the cumulative impact of many years of declining funding, decreasing resources, and cost inflation. When adjusted for inflation, it is clear that the amount of federal dollars appropriated has decreased sharply from its high in FY 1981 (see PDF). A sharp decline in funding coincided with the beginning of the Reagan Administration, and further large cuts were experienced in 1995, which corresponded to a change in Congressional leadership. In the period from 1995 to 2002, EIA federal staff was reduced by 20 percent, from 478 full-time employees (FTEs) in 1995 to 374 FTEs in 2002. The number of FTEs at EIA has remained at or below 374 since 2002 until today. Although there has been some restoration of funding (to about 1995 levels), the agency's funding has remained relatively stagnant.
Between FY 1995 and FY 2001, EIA was the only statistical agency that had to contend with significant budget reductions. Since then, other agencies have also experienced budget reductions, with appropriations stagnant or declining for almost all federal economic statistical agencies (Reamer 2009). According to Andrew Reamer, a fellow at Brookings Institution, "At an annual cost of less than $1.3 billion to guide the workings of a $14 trillion economy and the geographic distribution of over $500 billion in federal funds, the economic statistical system is one of the federal government's most cost-effective activities. Essentially, the cost of the system is extraordinarily low and the return on investment is almost infinite." The U.S. energy market alone commanded about $1.2 trillion of our economy in 2006, a vast sum compared to the EIA budget used to keep track of it—about $110 million (EIA 2008).