Energy recharges Web site

The Energy Department will unveil a portal next week that that's designed to be as useful to consumers as it is to scientists.

Gone will the department's old-style Web site at www.doe.gov, with canned news releases, statements from Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and a bureaucratic tone that gave little helpful information.

In its place will be a state-of-the-art Web site that's meant to make information easier to find for consumers at www.energy.gov. It will contain many levels of information — including fuel prices, energy-saving tips, national security issues and computer science — drawing together the resources of the multilayered department.

Energy.gov has been running in parallel to the old site since June. The design of the new portal is the handiwork of a small company, Supon Design Group of Washington, D.C. Its biggest challenge was designing a site that could be equally as useful to scientists as it is to ordinary consumers. DOE's Office of Consumer Information used existing resources and paid about $200,000 to the design firm.

"We had a tricky issue on the table — the site had to be accessible to everybody. That included the everyday Joe to the more educated individual, like a scientist or researcher, a friendly, nonintimidating and less formal approach," a DOE official said.

The site also will provide an e-mail service that gives customers regular updates on a wide variety of information, including the diesel fuel prices. Once a week, truckers will be able to get an update on the price they pay to fill up their tanks, which allows them to pass on the increasing cost of fuel to their customers.

Although this service has been available since 1994, when the Energy Information Administration went online, EIA spokesman Jonathan Cogan said the site is now getting thousands of hits from truckers because of the rising price of oil.

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