Sorry, wrong number: The use and misuse of numerical facts in analysis and media reporting of energy issues

Publication Type

Journal Article

Date Published

11/2002

LBNL Report Number

LBNL-50499

Abstract

Students of public policy sometimes envision an idealized policy process where competent data collection and incisive analysis on both sides of a debate lead to reasoned judgments and sound decisions. Unfortunately, numbers that prove decisive in policy debates are not always carefully developed, credibly documented, or correct. This paper presents four widely cited examples of numbers in the energy field that are either misleading or wrong. It explores the origins of these numbers, how they missed the mark, and how they have been misused by both analysts and the media. In addition, it describes and uses a three-stage analytical process for evaluating such statistics that involves defining terms and boundaries, assessing underlying data, and critically analyzing arguments.

Journal

Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 2002

Volume

27

Year of Publication

2002

Pagination

119-158

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Research Areas: