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USA: 4 Ways the Department of Energy Is Tapping Tech for a Greener Future

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This week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will re-launch its website, Energy.gov, to provide tools to help individuals and businesses better understand how to save energy and money. You can type your zip code into the site and get hyper-local information about your city, county and state, including information on tax credits, rebates and energy saving tips.

The site presents DOE data visually using the open source MapBox suite of tools, and localized data and maps can be shared or embedded on any website or blog. Other data sets the DOE is mapping include alternative fuel locations and per capita energy usage. Anyone can now compare how his state’s energy usage compares with others across the country. In addition to making the data more palatable for the public, the DOE is offering open data sets for others to use.

“Our goal is simple — to improve the delivery of public services online. We’re using government data to go local in a way that’s never been possible before. We’re connecting the work of the Energy Department with what’s happening in your backyard,” says Cammie Croft, senior advisor and director of new media and citizen engagement at the DOE. “We’re making Energy.gov relevant and accessible to consumers and small businesses in their communities.”

How else is the Energy Department working to bring better information about energy, renewable energies and energy technology to the public? Here are a few examples.

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1. Your MPG

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If you’re looking for the cheapest gas price near you, tips to maximize your gas mileage, or to compare new and used cars to identify the ones that will save you more on gas, look no further than FuelEconomy.gov. The site covers information about energy use and your vehicle including fuel use, fuel cost, and greenhouse gas emissions.

The “Your MPG” feature on the site lets you upload data about your own vehicle’s fuel usage to your “cyber” garage and get a better picture of how your vehicle is doing in terms of energy consumption. The system also aggregates the personal car data from all of the site’s users anonymously so people can share their fuel economy estimates.

“You can track your car’s fuel economy over time to see if your efforts to increase MPG are working,” says David Greene, research staffer at Oak Ridge National Lab. “Then you can compare your fuel data with others and see how you are doing relative to those who own the same vehicle.”

Greene says his team works with the data provided by the public to better understand why people’s MPG varies. In the works for the site is a predictive tool you can use when you are in the market for a new or used vehicle to more accurately predict the kind of mileage any given car will give you, based on your particular driving style and conditions. The system, says Greene, reduces the +/- 7 mpg margin of error of standard EPA ratings by about 50% to give you a more accurate estimate of what your MPG will be.
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