As Mark Twain once noted, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Statistics are what this report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council is based upon, although by changing their analysis of numbers, NRDC came up with different results regarding which U.S. counties drive American dependence upon fossil fuel.
After the first run, where the raw numbers pointed at Pickup Truck Land as the main culprit, NRDC's analysts noticed an error in how the data was presented and fixed it.
(You can use the slider above to compare the two different maps.)
Obviously, their initial assessment showed that the Intermountain West, the Southeast, and the entire state of Missouri has the highest per capita use of gasoline. That makes sense. In those regions, people drive long distances to get to places. Well, except for Missouri. They just had shoddy data from there.
But Missouri's the "Show Me State," so NRDC made 'em cough up the numbers again. By creating a new formula that took into account various regions' populations, they found that those evil red splotches smeared across parts of the map didn't accurately represent which places use the most gasoline collectively.
Let's look at it this way. Pumblechook, Mississippi's 15 residents (it's not a real place, just an example) each drive 100 miles per day in their 12 mpg 1979 Chevy pickups, while Suburbdale, California's 380,000 people each drive 10 miles per day in a fleet of eco-friendly 35 mpg Prii. You do the math to figure out which region has more of an impact on American oil consumption.
Accordingly, those red stains moved from the Southwest, northern Plains, and Southeast to Southern California, the area around New York City, and other urban areas where a lot of people live. So much for the "blame it on the pickup truck driving rednecks" approach to reducing oil consumption.
The point here is that if there's any blame to be had for America's higher than average use of gasoline, it lies with all of us, not just the pickup truck driving rednecks who live in parts of Missouri. That pony tailed fellow who drives a Highlander Hybrid with peace stickers all over the back to every drum circle in Southern California has a hand in it, too.
Photo credit: Natural Resources Defense Council