Bad chartmaker! Read more Tufte!

I saw this over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog.  What an awful chart.

First, it’s showing one parameter (total oil consumption) by resizing the area of the states.  Wtf?  Except on a very gross level, who can quickly evaluate the areas of irregular shapes?  And though we’re pretty familiar with US states, the blown-up map makes it hard to compare to the original sizes.  Quick now: is Tennessee bigger or smaller here than its normal size?

Second, total consumption is a pretty dumb thing to highlight.  Of course more people will use more oil.  So overall the chart only (poorly) communicates state  populations.

The more interesting stat, per capita consumption, is thrown in as a three-valued color coding, and then repeated in a separate bar chart whose alphabetical listing makes it impossible to look for any regional trends.

There are some stories here struggling to get out, such as why New York is the clear leader of the pack.  Population density, perhaps… or maybe it’s outsourced all its oil usage to New Jersey.