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Sen John Barrasso Innumeracy

I received enough email asking why I picked on Obama for what may have been a slip of the tongue regarding distribution of income gains. I think that our elected officials, whoever they are, need to speak with precision and when it comes to numbers, be close enough to exhibit an understanding of what they are discussing.

So, this past Tuesday, I hear Sen John Barrasso (WI) being interviewed by CNBC on the current gas price concerns. He offered that the average American uses 1500 gallons of gasoline each year. I’ll not split hairs to suggest that he meant the average driver, that was understood. But let’s think for a minute. 1500 gallons, even at 20 MPG (which is low, earlier, CNBC said the MPG was up to 30 MPG this year, which seemed high) that’s 30,000 miles per year. That just seemed wrong to me, so a few seconds with The Google and I found the Energy Kid’s Page, a site hosted by the department of energy. There, I found the number to be 500 gallons average with 12,000 miles driven by the average driver. This made a bit more sense to me, and this data was confirmed by the California Energy Commission, which states a US average of 464 gallons used per year. These numbers differ by less than 10%, but are far from the 1500 gallons the honorable Senator from Wisconsin stated.

The price of gas is high, painfully so. In any dialog about economics, it’s important to have your numbers right. Now, at work on Monday, I know that every dollar rise in gasoline impacts the average driver by $500 per year. I don’t aspire to the Cliff Clavin award, but I do want to know my facts before I quote them.

(I just found another beautiful New York Times graphic titled, “The Varying Impact of Gas Prices” illustrating the percent of one’s income going to gasoline purchases, across the country. Take a peek.)
Enjoy the weekend!


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