Anorak | The Guardian makes a hash of biomass and gasoline use

The Guardian makes a hash of biomass and gasoline use

by | 23rd, July 2013

THIS  is really rather good in The Guardian. Further evidence that the people who produce it just don’t understand numbers.

There’s a piece cooing over a new method of producing hydrogen. Basically, if we boil up some plants then we can stop using that nasty petrol and Gaia will be saved. Which is great, if it’s true:

In 2011, the US consumed 134bn gallons (507bn litres) of gasoline, but “with our technology, just 700m pounds [317,500 tonnes] of biomass would be enough to replace the whole yearly [gasoline] production,” says Zhang. The last official assessments estimate the availability of crop residues for biomass in the US to be about 157m tonnes per year.

Err, no. We really are not going to get the same energy out of 300,000 tonnes of biomass that we can get out of 400 million tonnes of petrol. Just ain’t gonna happen.

As is pointed out in the comments there the calculation is out by four orders of magnitude. That’s out by 10,000 if you happen to work for The Guardian. The difference between having £10 for a couple of pints on a Friday night and £100,000 to blow on a weekend of cocaine and hookers sort of difference.

It’s not the only time this sort of thing has happened either. Only a couple of days ago the same newspaper got the royalties that Spotify pays out by a factor of 100, or two orders of magnitude.

Now we might think that these two mistakes are trivial: but when the same newspaper starts to talk about growth, or economics, or tax rates or any other complicated type of number, well, just how well do you think they grasp what they’re talking about?

Maybe it’s not all that good an idea to have only the arts graduates producing the newspapers?

Posted: 23rd, July 2013 | In: Money Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink