Who to believe?
The real question is — why are readers and decision-makers forced to “believe” anything at all? Many claims made during the debate offered no numbers to back them up. Claims with numbers rarely provided context to interpret those numbers. And never — never! — were readers shown the calculations behind any numbers. Readers had to make up their minds on the basis of hand-waving, rhetoric, bombast.
Imagine if Blinder’s proposal in the New York Times were written like this:
Say we allocate $3.0 billion for the following program: Car-owners who trade in an old car that gets less than 17 MPG, and purchase a new car that gets better than 24 MPG, will receive a $3,500 rebate.
We estimate that this will get 828,571 old cars off the road. It will save1,068 million gallons of gas (or 68 hours worth of U.S. gas consumption.) It will avoid 9.97 million tons CO2e, or 0.14% of annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The abatement cost is $301 per ton CO2e of federal spending, although it’s -$20 per ton CO2e on balance if you account for the money saved by consumers buying less gas.