Lying with Statistics
Letter to The Economist
Sokol-type hoax?

Central Planning at The Economist

Phony statistics

And false, incorrect, erroneous numbers, to boot.

The Economist 

I would feel a lot better about The Economist if somebody would step forward and admit that the articles about nuclear power in the May 19, 2001, issue were a Sokol-type hoax. Surely, somebody was testing to see whether readers had read Huff's Lying with Statistics

I feel good that the economist who called the articles to my attention knew that the economic arguments were faulty, and also that he suspected that some other technical matters were just as bad. It is my sincere hope that most economists are as astute as my friend. 

The first item is the plea on page 13 to Soviet-style manipulation of the marketplace, namely, to tax fossil fuels out of existence so that solar and wind could become competitive; moreover to put these piddle-power sources "on an equal footing with nuclear." Surely, the writer was trying to prove that readers would spot left-of-Trotsky arguments and object to their inclusion in the world's pre-eminent magazine for economists. 

The second item that comes to mind is the chart on page 26, in which wind power is shown to have an annual growth rate of 25%, while that of nuclear power is said to be1%. Yeah, and Maude's Refreshing Hippopotamus-Tooth Tonic is soon to take over the market from Coca-Cola, because production grew by 94% last year alone. Come now! Does anybody expect economists fall for that phony argument? 

Any half-baked economist can readily spot the folly described in the previous paragraph, but most would not be expected to know offhand that the nuclear entry in the table is utterly false. In fact [data from Energy Information Agency for 1990-1998], the increase in delivered electrical energy from nuclear power plants increased a full 40% from 1722.5 billion kWh in 1990 to 2416.4 billion kWh in 1998. This amounts to an increase of 4.2% per year, not 1% per year. The 8-year average annual increase in delivered nuclear power amounted to an increase of 9900 MW of around-the-clock power. 

By comparison, the total electrical production worldwide from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, photovoltaic, solar-thermal, sulfur, batteries, and chemicals amounted (1997) to 121.2 billion kWh; the one-year increase from 120.6 billion kWh in 1996 amounted to an almost immeasurably small 0.6 billion kWh. 

Any economist ought to raise a few flags when they see The Economist citing the rabidly anti-nuclear Worldwatch Institute as a source of information (chart, p. 26), worse yet as their only source of information. At the very least, one expects Worldwatch to exaggerate the effects of the media hysteria campaign they have worked so hard to promote. Please tell me that the chart was there to test whether economists were awake. 

Econo-Sokol, Please step forward! 

Best regards, 
Howard Hayden

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