June 19, 2008

AFP Item On U.S. Driving Is Both Econ- and Math-Challenged

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 2:51 pm

AFPmathCeconMockIt’s not just the Associated Press that can’t get basic facts right.

No wonder Barack Obama doesn’t get challenged by the media on fundamentals — y’know, things like how many states there are in the union (he says 57 or so), whether Illinois is closer to Kentucky than Arkansas (he says it’s not), or whether Warren Buffett’s income (!) is $56 billion (Obama seems to think that income and net worth are the same).

Apparently, some in the media have similar serious problems with basic economics and math.

Check out this from AFP about Americans’ driving (bolds are mine):

Americans drive 4.5 billion fewer miles in April: report

….. beginning in 2004, the number of miles Americans put in on the roads annually began falling between 100 and 300 million miles.

And this year, the fall accelerated sharply on a yearly comparison to 4.4 billion miles.

Observers surmise a possible link between the declining number of miles driven and rising US gasoline prices.

According to a report released in April 2004 by the Congressional Research Service, the average price for petrol in the United States during the summer of 2003 was 1.74 dollars per gallon (around 3.5 liters).

Today, gasoline prices across the United States are around 3.5 times higher, averaging more than four dollars per gallon.

Reaction to first bolded item after the headline: Increasing prices reduces demand Gee, ya think?

Reaction to second bolded item after the headline: On what planet does $4 divided by $1.74 equal 3.5?

The frightening thing is that this might have been reviewed by, and gotten past, multiple layers of editors.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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4 Comments

  1. Tom –

    The 3.5 could be a typo. Two times $1.74 per gallon gas equals $3.48 a gallon. So the price range could be about 2.5 times higher, somewhere around $4.62. The story you criticize actually says that U.S. gasoline prices are “averaging more than four dollars per gallon.” You left out the “more than” detail, a significant omission for somebody who claims to be a media critic demanding total accuracy. By the way, AFP says gasoline — and that would seem to take teh full gamut of regular, plus, and premium brands. You say, “On what planet does $4 divided by $1.74 equal 3.5?” The answer is no planet. But your post is not precise because AFP did not say gas in the U.S. was $4. AFP said the average price is more than $4. So you seem to have committed the sin of inaccuracy. Just like Dan Quayle, or Obama. Should I ship you a bag filled with 57 pounds of pomme de terres (sp)?

    Comment by bill sloat — June 19, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

  2. Tom

    You missed the biggest error. The DOT reported that Americans drove 1.4 billion miles less in April 2008 than in April 2007. AFP somehow goosed that up to 4.5 billion.

    Here’s the link:
    http://www.dot.gov/affairs/dot8408.htm

    Comment by Kurt Brouwer — June 19, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

  3. #1 Bill, on no planet does 3.5 x $1.74 equal anything that begins with a 4. So no matter how much gas is over $4 (and under $5), the AFP is wrong, and there’s little need to engage in an exercise involving further “accuracy.”

    In fact, on no planet does 3.5 x $1.74 even equal anything that begins with a 5. The answer is $6.09.

    On what planet are you trying to claim a reporter gets a pass because he, she or they say that gas is over $4 (not by much — $4.08 per this link, after subtracting “about 40 cents” from the nationwide premium average of $4.48), when the math says it would be $6.09?

    You need to familiarize/refamiliarize yourself with what is and isn’t immaterial (go to Wallstreet Words version of meaning).

    Comment by TBlumer — June 19, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

  4. #2, That’s what the table on Page 2 of the spreadsheet says (2007 – 250316; 2008 – 245888). That’s close enough to 4.5 bil, but in the article text they called it (rounding more properly) 4.4 bil. Zheesh.

    I “think” the difference is that the 1.4 bil you referred to is only highway miles in the announcement, while 4.5 bil is the total difference involving all miles driven, including non-highways (which I’m guessing means “non-limited access highways). But without further digging I don’t have time for, I think AFP is OK on this.

    Comment by TBlumer — June 19, 2008 @ 10:02 pm

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