Wrong Question (OR Reasons to not believe polls)

August 15, 2008

If you’ve been paying attention to the political news lately, you’ve probably heard something like “a majority of americans think we should be doing more drilling for oil” or similar, highly disturbing, poll data.

Personally, every time I hear such gibberish, I am discouraged about the state of this country and its populace. Then I read blog posts like this.

Notably, a Gallup poll widely cited by the press beginning in June – precisely the time President Bush, Senator John McCain, and Governor Charlie Crist of Florida all began advocating for more drilling – did not ask respondents to choose from alternatives. It simply asked if they would favor or oppose drilling to “attempt to reduce the price of gasoline.”


Some polls, though, do show nuance when they ask multi-part questions. Keith Johnson, a longtime energy reporter who now writes the Environmental Capital blog for The Wall Street Journal, said in an e-mail interview that survey questions should be parsed carefully:

    In polls in which the question is something like, “Do you prefer more drilling or more investment in alternative energy?,” alternative energy usually comes out ahead.


Progress Illinois’s Josh Kalven notes that in “a July poll by Belden Russonello & Stewart, 76 percent of respondents said that ‘investing in new energy technology including renewable fuels and more efficient automobiles’ was a more important government priority than ‘expanding exploration and drilling for more oil’

It’s a nice reminder that polls are, in some ways, worse than statistics (which are, or course, worse than lies and damn lies). Bottom line, data like this is one more indication that all this “drill here, drill now” talk is distracting us from Al Gore’s admirable challenge.

A Little Holiday Environmental Misogyny

May 26, 2008

Headline: Chicks Can’t Drive

Subhed: Also, Chicks Are Crazy.  Maybe It’s Their Time Of The Month?

In all seriousness…I did click over to the Indy for a brief period yesterday, and I was severely disappointed to see that they’re doing a great deal of work and pub declaring that they’ve switched to using ethanol-based fuels to run the Indy 500.

This is, of course, a highly questionable decision, when you consider the fact that the environmental benefits of ethanol are questionable, at best, while it is completely accepted that increased use and production of food-based ethanol drives up food prices, increasing starvation in Third World countries.

I don’t know why I should be disappointed, really.  Should I expect an event which is dedicated to the proposition of driving a car as fast as humanly possible to be environmentally conscious?  Should I, instead, be happy that such an event is even trying to put a minor sheen of environmental consciousness on themselves?  The problem I have, which is really the problem I have with ethanol altogether, is that it really is not a way of improving our environmental footprint.  At best, it seems to be a way of decreasing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, while doing the same harm environmentally.  Only, driving a flex fuel vehicle makes people feel like they are doing something for the environment, which might well reduce their urge to take other, more concrete steps to conserve energy.

So, on balance, I consider this fact to be yet another reason to detest and belittle the fact that we consider the act of driving a car 500 miles in a circle to be a sport.

It’s still better than hockey, of course, but that’s really not setting the bar very high…