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Fact is, opinions aren’t always accurate

Citizen Staff Writer

Editor and Publisher

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Daniel Patrick Moynihan,

U.S. senator, 1976-2000

People sometimes stray from the facts to support their arguments in our letters to the editor, guest columns and online comments.

Tucson Citizen staff members don’t check all information for factuality in these free-speech vehicles, so caveat lector – let the reader beware.

We edit letters and guest columns but not online comments. Our philosophy for all commentary, print and online, is that free speech rules, so we mostly let people have their say.

This sometimes leads to opinions supported by “facts” that aren’t, or factual claims for which conflicting sources exist.

Some recent examples:

• A letter to the editor writer last week argued that increased drilling for oil off U.S. coasts would bring gasoline prices back to 60 cents a gallon.

He then wrote: “North America has 10 times more oil reserves than all the Arab countries combined. The Gulf of Mexico alone has all the oil the U.S. needs for 1,000 years.”

Is that factual? It seems not.

The most up-to-date and consistently mentioned figure for Gulf of Mexico reserves found online is 15 billion barrels, mentioned in several stories quoting Chevron Corp. officials in 2006.

At the current U.S. consumption rate of about 20 million barrels a day, 15 billion barrels would last 25 months. A millennium at that consumption rate would take 7.2 trillion barrels.

Add in the high cost of the deep-water drilling to get at that oil, and it puts in dispute the claim that we can have 60-cents-a-gallon gasoline again.

In fairness, some other Internet sources offer information about reserves similar to what the writer cited.

• An online commenter, recently on a rant about illegal immigration, blamed the open-border crowd for the “30 million” people in the country illegally.

Is 30 million factual?

Several sources, using Census Bureau and other statistics, put the number at 12 million. Some anti-immigration groups estimate it as high as 20 million.

No one knows how many are here. But using statistically proven methods is better than wild guessing, by my thinking.

• “Chihak can’t see the positives in anything our president does . . . ,” a letter to the editor writer said two weeks ago in response to my May 3 column.

It’s his opinion, so I won’t quibble with whether it is factual. But he erred in concluding: “As long as he’s editor and publisher, he can print whatever nonsense drips off his pen.”

Oh, yeah! Ask anyone who knows me: I am very selective about what nonsense I print.

Nonsense, good sense or somewhere in between, it’s all and always about freedom of speech – yours, mine, theirs.

So please, keep those opinions – and all the “facts” to support them – coming in.

And caveat lector.

Reach Michael A. Chihak by calling 573-4646 or by sending e-mail to mchihak@tucsoncitizen.com.

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This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

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