June 2007 LSAT, III, #2

Section 3 of the June 2007 LSAT offers a mystery:  Why the hell would Jimmy's gas bills increase after installing a new, "highly efficient" gas water heater? Seems like his gas bills should go down, right? Well, no. Not necessarily. Not if you're arguing properly. Sure, it's possible that your bill would go down after installing a new water heater. It might even be likely. But it is not, by any means, guaranteed. I can think of a few reasons why:

  • One trap is to assume that, since Jimmy has installed a new, "highly efficient" gas water heater, then he must give a shit about efficiency / conservation. But maybe Jimmy just has an insatiable love of hot water. Maybe he leaves the new heater on full blast all day so that he can take 5-hour showers. (Oh and by the way, maybe the new one is more "efficient" but it's also 20 times larger than the old one, so it's capable of "efficiently" consuming a lot more gas than the old one.) Maybe he uses scalding hot water to wash his car, water his lawn, and hose down his driveway. If that's true, then the new water heater is going to lead to nothing but HIGHER bills.
  • Another trap, of a totally different type, is to assume that the price of gas is constant. Maybe Jimmy did NOT increase his hot water consumption. But if the price of gas quadrupled, his gas bill might still go up, no matter how efficient Jimmy and his water heater are.

I could go on like this all day.

The question says "Each of the following, if true, contributes to an explanation of the increase mentioned above EXCEPT:" Okay, great. My bullets above are all good explanations of why Jimmy's gas bill might have gone up, even after installing the new water heater. Since this is an EXCEPT question, four of the answer choices (the incorrect ones) will be similar to my bullets. The correct answer could be one of two things. It could be something totally irrelevant--"Jimmy also bought a Prius" would be worthless as an explanation for his increased gas bill, and would therefore be a perfect EXCEPT answer. The correct answer could also be something that makes the increased gas bill even harder to understand--"Jimmy also reduced his consumption of hot water" would make it even more likely that his bill would have gone down, and would therefore be a perfect EXCEPT answer.

With all that said, NOW I'll go ahead and proceed to the answer choices. Please note: I am not trying to tell you that you need to do all of what I just did before you look at the answers. I'm purposely exaggerating the amount of prediction / analysis I do here. But  you do need to do some prediction. The answer choices are not your friend. If you don't know what you're looking for before you wade in, all the answer choices are going to look reasonable and you'll be in huge trouble. The work I've put in will make the answer choices easier to get through. In general, I spend a LOT more time reading the argument, and trying to predict an answer, than I do actually evaluating answer choices. The answer choices are 80% bullshit and wrong, by definition. Never, ever forget this.

A)  Hmm. If this is true, then if anything it makes it harder to understand why Jimmy's bill went up. I bet this is the answer. I'm hoping that B-E are all good explanations, so I can happily choose A.

B)  Yep. This one definitely would explain why Jimmy's bill went up--his fat uncle is blasting the hot water all the time.

C)  Yep. This one would also explain it--Jimmy is using more gas at home.

D)  Yep, price went up. I predicted this would be here.

E)  Yep, usage went up. Since B-E all indicate that gas usage or price went up, they all are good explanations for why Jimmy's bill went up. But A doesn't explain the higher bill... if anything, A makes it harder to understand why his bill didn't go down. So A is our answer.