4a. Identify some of the ways that the following argument could be improved: “Gas prices throughout the United States have been steadily increasing in recent years due solely to rising overseas oil costs. This can be seen because as the price of oil increases, the price of gas has been increasing proportionately. For example, the average cost for a barrel of crude oil in 2004 was $36.98 a barrel and the average cost of gasoline was $1.85 a gallon. However, during 2005, the average cost for a barrel of crude oil rose to $50.23 a barrel and the average cost for a gallon of gasoline rose to $2.27. Since our economy relies on gasoline for a variety of purposes, we can expect the steady rise of gasoline costs to have an equally profound impact on every individual business within every industry.”
4b. There are a variety of ways that this particular argument could be improved, but the simplest, and probably the best method to improve the argument would be to remove the words that suggest that certain ideas are absolute truths. In the first sentence of the argument, simply replacing the word “solely” with “partially” would greatly increase the ability of the argument to identify oil prices as a major factor in gasoline prices without stating that it is the only factor involved. In the second sentence, the word “proportionately”, which indicates that the price of gas increases in exactly the same way as the price of oil increases, could be changed to “as well.” Finally, in the last sentence of the argument, removing the word “equally” and adding the word “almost” before “every individual business” and before “every industry” would make it clear that increasing gasoline costs will affect most businesses, but it will not necessarily affect every business in the same way.