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Barometer: why is oil measured in barrels, and who in England can’t speak English?

Plus: how many police are armed, and how much we spend on furniture

23 January 2016

9:00 AM

23 January 2016

9:00 AM

Roll out the barrel

The price of crude oil dropped below $30 a barrel. Why do we measure it in barrels?
— A standard barrel for the purposes of measuring oil is 42 US gallons or 35 imperial gallons. This was the size of a ‘tierce’, a unit for measuring wine in medieval England.
— When demand for kerosene provoked an oil rush in Pennsylvania in 1859, producers were so desperate for vessels that they used all kinds of containers.
— In August 1866, however, producers met in the town of Titusville to agree on a standard measure. A 42-gallon barrel of oil weighed 300lb:  just enough, it was found, for one man to manoeuvre on his own.
— The US Petroleum Producers Association adopted the 42-gallon barrel in 1872 and it has remained the standard measure ever since.

Not speaking English

David Cameron promised free English lessons for Muslim women who can’t speak English. How many people in England can’t speak English?
In the 2011 census 7.7% of the population said their main language was something other than English or Welsh.
1.3% ‘cannot speak English very well’.
0.3% said they can’t speak English at all.
The areas with the highest percentages who cannot speak English well are:

Newham 8.7%
Brent, Tower Hamlets 8.0%
Leicester 7.5%

Gun trends

An extra 600 armed police officers are to be deployed in London. What is the trend in firearms use in England and Wales?

No. of police firearms operations
2008/09 23,181
2009/10 21,337
2010/11 19,619
2011/12 16,857
2012/13 15,454
2013/14 14,864

Source: Home Office

No. of authorised firearms officers
2008/09 6,906
2009/10 6,976
2010/11 6,653
2011/12 6,756
2012/13 6,092
2013/14 5,875

Source: Home Office

Furnishing limits

The head of sustainability for Ikea said we have reached ‘peak home furnishings’. How has the market for home furnishing been going?

Average weekly sales
November 2011 £221,395
November 2012 £224,509
November 2013 £228,222
November 2014 £261,053
November 2015 £275,526

Source: ONS


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