by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) famously said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” No fan of academic studies, he had learned how statistics can be used to make almost any point the researcher wants to make. My grandma often quoted the 1880s version, “Figures don’t lie, but liars do figure.”

For that reason, I try not to bore those who indulge my weekly ramblings with too many statistics, though numbers sometimes illustrate more vividly than words. That can help clear away political rhetoric, so policy questions can be considered with greater clarity. There is no better example than the complex arguments regarding energy, and its impact on the climate. It is our generation’s defining environmental question, yet hopelessly mired in confusion.

An Oxford-based online publication called “Our World in Data” tracks a bewildering array of facts and figures, aiding research on major issues like poverty, disease, war and peace and climate change. Ninety million people annually visit its website, which features thousands of interactive charts and graphs, frequently featuring a long-term layout that shows how various conditions have changed over time. I am especially intrigued by the charts tracking energy production and consumption, in various countries, over time.

For me, one conspicuous picture emerges. Namely, the United States is the only major country pursuing a completely different agenda than the rest of the world when it comes to energy. That sounds counterintuitive, since we’re often said to be citizens of the same world, and supposedly share a common interest in preserving our fragile planet. Yet considering actions, not words, that appears to be a concern almost exclusively of the U.S. That’s ironic because the U.S. is so often called the world’s worst actor, producing and consuming the most energy — the greatest threat to the globe.

Well, not so much.

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