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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Lying or Weasel Wording? WWAFS

WWAFS = What Would Al Franken Say?

Incompetance, ignorance, or evil intention, I can never quite make out why people always screw up simple oil consumption numbers. From Saturday's issue of the StarTribune, an op-ed writer, Donald G. Engebretson, pontificates:
The recent flurry of letters in the Star Tribune from citizens decrying the Senate vote moving America closer to tapping oil reserves in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) perfectly encapsulate every ignorance-based fallacy surrounding drilling in ANWR.

One writer mentions the "minuscule oil reserves." U.S. Geological Survey mean estimates are that the ANWR oil reserve contains between 4.4 and 5.8 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil (the amount that could be profitably extracted). Conservative estimates of daily production are 1 million barrels per day for 30 years -- an increase in U.S. oil production of nearly 25 percent. That's 4.5 percent of America's annual consumption, equal to the oil imported from Saudi Arabia each year.

The amount of economically recoverable oil could be three times that, but if not, just how large in dollars is 4.5 percent? It's $420 billion, or $14 billion per year that the United States would save in oil imports. Ask any business owner if slashing 4.5 percent from the expense side of the ledger would be a small thing for a business, and not worth the trouble.
Too bad the guy can't multiply numbers. First off, one million barrels of day for 30 years is almost 11 billion barrels of oil. Twice as much as what they estimate the area actually holds (says right there in the same paragraph!). Secondly, Engebretson's comparison against U.S. production misleads the reader into thinking that we can draw a large percentage of our needs from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The ratio of 25% he quotes reduces to 5% if we consider that we use over 20 million barrels of oil daily from all sources.

I judge this letter to fall into the evil intention camp. Subtle shifts in numbers tend to have a cumulative effect when many of these "corrections" get strung together.

(Insert strange tangential comment here: Mr. Engebretson performed with an early 80's punk-funk band called Things That Fall Down. Another right-winger from that same band, Scott Brooks, has a blog called Pink Monkey Bird that basically fawns over utterances from the Hewitt and Powerline camp. More proof that the Mighty Wurlitzer of the Twin Cities wingnut editorial faction arises from a small coterie of disenfranchised bitter musicians.)

The right-wing financial apologist Larry Kudlow stated a few days ago on his blog: "The Veep was not overly concerned with the economic threat of $60 a barrel oil, correctly noting that oil use in today’s economy is only about half of what it was 25 years ago." This statement just echoes more of the same subtle lies that tend to accumulate like radon in the basement. Matt Savinar provides the origin of this oft-repeated weasel-wording:
Since 1973, we have managed to cut in half the amount of oil necessary to generate a dollar of GDP. At the same time, however, we have doubled our level of consumption. Thus, despite massive increases in the energy efficiency over the last 30 years, we are more dependent on oil than ever.

Get off the booze and crack, Kudlow.


Professor Blogger pinkmonkeybird said...

I'm afraid that the ANWAR oil reserves is a subject I know very little or nothing about. This, in contrast to it's being within your chosen area of expertise.
But as we all know, the United States is too dependant upon foreign sources of oil and needs to find solutions to this problem.
If I'm not mistaken it is thought that the Congress will before long, authorize drilling in ANWAR. This seems like a perfectly sensible idea to me.
Btw, I haven't owned a car for over 20 years. You?

I am guilty as charged in being a huge fan of the Northern Alliance of Blogs. Power Line was awarded as Blog of the Year by Time magazine and they were one of the crucial blogs in exposing Dan Rather's phoney documents. Now they are hot on the trail in exposing the lie that the GOP wrote the talking points memo. Can you think of a better group of blogs to "fawn over"?

7:28 PM  
Professor Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

Fortunately, some environmentalists and neocons (!) are doing something about it, in a small way.

At least they're a.) setting an example, and b.) establishing an existence proof.

9:23 PM  

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