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Gre Argument: A Prediction Of The Demand On Heating Oil - With A Free Essay Review

The following appeared in a memo to the board of directors of a company that specializes in the delivery of heating oil. "Most homes in the northeastern United States, where winters are typically cold, have traditionally used oil as their major fuel for heating. Last heating season, that region experienced 90 days with below-normal temperatures, and climate forecasters predict that this weather pattern will continue for several more years. Furthermore, many new homes are being built in the region in response to recent population growth. Because of these trends, we can safely predict that this region will experience an increased demand for heating oil during the next five years." Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.

The conclusion said in the argument that "we can safely predict that northeastern United States will experience an increased demand for heating oil during the next five years" seems at the first look to be reasonable, due to the given facts that this region has suffered an extremely cold winter and there are many new homes being built in the region. However, if considered carefully, the argument is flawed with some key evidences as follows.

First, we do not know that if most homes in the northeastern U.S. are still continuing use oil as their major fuel in the recent years. The author only said in the argument that homes there have traditionally used oil as their major fuel for heating, but the situation may have changed during the past years. For example, this region may have a lack of oil and residents there may find using oil as major fuel is too expensive, so they might have begun to use other kind of fuels, like coals and woods, or they may even use electricity as heating power. In these cases, even if they will continue to experience typically cold winters in the next five years, it is unwarranted to say that there would be an increased demand for heating oil.

Second, the author does not give any specific data about the actual temperature in the northeastern U.S. We only know that winters there are typically cold and the region had experienced 90 days with below-normal temperatures. But how typically, and what are the normal temperatures there? Without specific evidence about these, it is entirely possible that the normal temperatures are not so cold as the author wants us to imagine, especially in the days when global warming is becoming more and more severe. So the 90 days with below-normal temperatures does not mean anything, we cannot even be sure that people there really need so much heating oil to survive the winter. Maybe the weather there is just fine, and in the day there is enough sunshine, which could make people warm without having to use heating all day. We just do not know, yet we cannot say that an argument that lacked such evidence is convincing.

Third, the new homes that are being built in the region do not necessarily have any connection with the prediction that this region will experience an increased demand for heating oil. The author did not say clearly whether the growth in population is a nation-wide phenomenon or a thing happened exactly in the northeastern U.S., so it remains uncertain whether population there is in actual increase. Granted that population in the region is on the increase, there still remains a problem that not all the people are going to spend their winter in the region. The growing population may because of the region's comfortable climate in summer, and many people may choose to move into here in summer, just for a vacation, and move out to elsewhere when winter comes. So unless the author can provide some convincing evidence about whether the population is really growing in this region and if the growing population is to stay here in winter, we cannot be sure whether there will be more people spending their winter there and using oil as their fuel for heating. Thus, the statement that there will be an increase in demand for heating oil in this region is open to doubt.

In conclusion, even if with facts that seems to increase the demand for heating oil in northeastern U.S., some other evidences as above-mentioned are necessary for better evaluating this argument.


Essay Review

I understand the impulse to change the wording of the original statement when paraphrasing its content, but you run the risk of getting the meaning wrong when you do that. The first paragraph here contains a basic error in its reference to a claim that the "region has suffered an extremely cold winter." The memo does not say anything of that kind; it only notes that "the region experienced 90 days with below-normal temperatures." As you yourself point out in your third paragraph, "the author does not give any specific data about the actual temperature[s]."

The second basic error in the first paragraph is its last sentence. We do not and cannot know whether the argument is flawed; indeed, the presupposition of the prompt is that we crucially need additional evidence before determining whether the argument is flawed. Your task, therefore, cannot be to determine whether the argument is flawed; your task is only to determine what evidence would be helpful for the purpose of evaluating the argument.

Your first full argument (that some existing homes may be using different heating fuels) is reasonable but only implicitly responds to the instruction to identify the evidence that would be needed to evaluate the argument. You should do that explicitly: "In order to evaluate the argument, we need evidence concerning etc. We need this evidence because etc. If the evidence shows X, then the original argument is etc."

In your next paragraph, you correctly point out, but again only implicitly, that we need evidence concerning actual temperatures in the region to judge the argument. This paragraph is not specific enough, however, and devotes attention to matters that are irrelevant (such as speculation that global warming might be responsible for the climate not being particularly cold). The evidence that it would be helpful to know here includes information about the number of days in the heating season with above average temperatures and, if it is determined that 90 days with below-normal temperatures is an unusually high number of such days, then we would still need to know how far below normal those days are on average. Essentially, we need to know whether heaters are being run for longer during the heating season that exhibited the mentioned weather pattern.

The other problem with this paragraph is that it is insufficiently clear about the possible consequences of the evidence for the argument. It is not enough to say that in the absence of such evidence, the argument is not convincing. Your task is not to determine whether the argument is convincing, but to explain how it would be impacted depending on what the evidence might show.

I will leave it to you to determine why the final argument has similar problems to those discussed here, but I will say that the argument there seems a bit specious. Evidence about whether new homes use oil for heating would, of course, be helpful. (As would, by the way, evidence about the reliability of long-term predictions of weather patterns).

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: milklover

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