Obama: Those Who Advocate Drilling Are ‘Flat Earthers’ or Something; Updated

In a recent speech in New Hampshire, Obama claimed "under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years." While that’s technically true, it’s also true that the increase in production has come entirely on private and state lands, not federal lands where it has actually decreased.  Jonah Goldberg at National Review perfectly captured the nonsense contained in Obama’s implication that he has anything to do with the increase in oil production on private lands:

It’s also true that under Obama’s administration, Snooki from Jersey Shoregot pregnant and Charlie Sheen lost his job. And he can take about as much credit for those developments.

Never mind that if he’d gotten the cap-and-trade proposals he campaigned on, energy prices would be even worse. (He once acknowledged that under his plan, electricity prices would “skyrocket” and coal companies would go bankrupt. His energy secretary, Steven Chu, admitted he wanted America to emulate European gas prices when they were about $8 per gallon.)

The boom in oil production has taken place almost entirely on private and state lands, while on federal lands it’s dropped (11 percent from 2010 to 2011 alone). The administration has also slowed the permitting of offshore oil-and-gas development to a trickle.

In other words, what ever minor increase in oil production occurred did so in spite of Obama’s policies, not because of them. The Institute for Energy Research (IER) put’s Obama’s claim into proper context, noting what has happened to oil (and other fossil fuel) production on federal lands:

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) just released its report, Sales of Fossil Fuels Produced on Federal and Indian Lands, FY 2003 Through FY 2011.[i] This report shows that total fossil fuel production on federal lands is falling, natural gas production on federal lands is falling, and oil production on federal land fell in 2011 ending two years of increase. Specifically the new EIA report shows:

  • Fossil fuel (coal, oil, and natural gas) production on Federal and Indian lands is the lowest in the 9 years EIA reports data and is 6 percent less than in fiscal year 2010.
  • Crude oil and lease condensate production on Federal and Indian lands is 13 percent lower than in fiscal year 2010.
  • Natural gas production on Federal and Indian lands is the lowest in the 9 years that EIA reports data and is 10 percent lower than in fiscal year 2010.
  • Natural gas plant liquids production on Federal and Indian lands is 3 percent lower than in fiscal year 2010.
  • Coal production on Federal and Indian lands is the lowest in the 9 years of data that EIA reported and is 2 percent lower than in fiscal year 2010.

Crude oil production on Federal and Indian lands decreased 13 percent from 739 million barrels in fiscal year 2010 to 646 million barrels in fiscal year 2011. Production of crude oil on Federal lands is dominated by offshore production, which fell by 17 percent in fiscal year 2011, mostly notably due to government actions taken following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. These actions include a moratorium on offshore drilling by the Obama Administration, followed by a permit moratorium. Only recently has the Obama Administration leased any federal land offshore to oil and gas drilling.


The big picture is clear that government policies undertaken by the Obama Administration have produced a significant decline in offshore oil production on federal lands in fiscal year 2011. That is certainly not a way to increase domestic production of oil and keep oil and thus gasoline prices in check.

The IER provided this helpful chart to make buttress their point:

Thus  on federal lands, where most of our fossil fuel reserves lie, Obama’s policies have resulted in a decline in production. The entire increase in production has occurred on private or state lands, areas in which Obama’s ability to wreak havoc are diminished. But on federal lands, where Obama and his out-of-control EPA have virtually unlimited power, oil and other conventional energy production is down. And yet Obama wants us to believe he’s responsible for an increase in oil production?

Obama repeated this misleading claim in a speech today in Maryland. Hilariously, he touted opening up a small area in the Gulf of Mexico which could contain as much as…get ready for this…400 million barrels of oil:

Offshore, I’ve directed my administration to open up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources.  That includes an area in the Gulf of Mexico we opened up a few months ago that could produce more than 400 million barrels of oil.

Wow!  400 million barrels.  That’s a lot, right?  Let’s take a look. In his Maryland speech, Obama also reiterated his claim that America uses twenty percent of the world’s oil while only possessing two percent of the world’s reserves.  Therefore, he avers, anyone who believes we can lower the price of oil by expanding production has a problem with basic "math" and should be in the "flat earth society" or something:

Now, you don’t need to be getting an excellent education at Prince George’s Community College to know that we’ve got a math problem here.  (Laughter and applause.)  I help out Sasha occasionally with her math homework and I know that if you’ve got 2 and you’ve got 20, there’s a gap.  (Laughter.)  There’s a gap, right?


Let me tell you something.  If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail — (laughter) — they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society.  (Laughter.)

Hysterical! Let’s take Obama’s advice and do some basic math. Obama’s damned proud of the fact that he opened up an area in the Gulf that could potentially produce a whopping 400 million barrels of oil. But, and this is a big but (sorry for the visual), the U.S. consumes between 19 and 20 million barrels of oil per day. So Obama’s great concession to energy development in the Gulf means he added about 3 weeks to our oil supplies. (That will certainly impress the markets, right?) And this is only if some entity finds it commercially viable to incur the costs of underwater infrastructure and drilling for such a small reservoir of oil.  I’m skeptical. Someone has a problem with math, but it isn’t those of us who advocate energy production.

Obama’s been making this silly 2% reserves claim for quite a while now (though sometimes he’ll say 3%). I’ve noticed something, and perhaps you have too: Whenever rising gasoline prices cut into his approval rating, he trots out this number. Never mind that like virtually every claim Obama makes about energy, it’s nonsense. In a piece yesterday, John Merline at Investor’s Business Daily notes just how far removed from practical reality Obama’s is:

The claim makes it appear as though the U.S. is an oil-barren nation, perpetually dependent on foreign oil and high prices unless we can cut our own use and develop alternative energy sources like algae.

But the figure Obama uses — proved oil reserves — vastly undercounts how much oil the U.S. actually contains. In fact, far from being oil-poor, the country is awash in vast quantities — enough to meet all the country’s oil needs for hundreds of years.

The U.S. has 22.3 billion barrels of proved reserves, a little less than 2% of the entire world’s proved reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. But as the EIA explains, proved reserves "are a small subset of recoverable resources," because they only count oil that companies are currently drilling for in existing fields.

When you look at the whole picture, it turns out that there are vast supplies of oil in the U.S., according to various government reports. Among them:

At least 86 billion barrels of oil in the Outer Continental Shelf yet to be discovered, according to the government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

About 24 billion barrels in shale deposits in the lower 48 states, according to EIA.

Up to 2 billion barrels of oil in shale deposits in Alaska’s North Slope, says the U.S. Geological Survey.

Up to 12 billion barrels in ANWR, according to the USGS.

As much as 19 billion barrels in the Utah tar sands, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Then, there’s the massive Green River Formation in Wyoming, which according to the USGS contains a stunning 1.4 trillion barrels of oil shale — a type of oil released from sedimentary rock after it’s heated.

A separate Rand Corp. study found that about 800 billion barrels of oil shale in Wyoming and neighboring states is "technically recoverable," which means it could be extracted using existing technology. That’s more than triple the known reserves in Saudi Arabia.

All told, the U.S. has access to 400 billion barrels of crude that could be recovered using existing drilling technologies, according to a 2006 Energy Department report.

When you include oil shale, the U.S. has 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil, according to the Institute for Energy Research, enough to meet all U.S. oil needs for about the next 200 years, without any imports.

And even this number could be low, since such estimates tend to go up over time.

Back in 1995, for example, the USGS figured there were 151 million barrels of oil in North Dakota’s Bakken formation. In 2008, it upped that estimate to 3 billion barrels to 4.3 billion barrels — a 25-fold increase. Now, some oil analysts say there could be as much as 20 billion barrels there.

There’s plenty more in the IBD article, but you get the point. And IBD is only referring to oil. In a post about a year ago, I linked to a study which indicated that America has more recoverable fossil fuel resources (oil, coal, natural gas, methane hydrates, etc.) than any country on the planet, including Russia and Saudi Arabia. And Obama wants to use taxpayer dollars to grow algae. Brilliant. There’s no shortage of domestic oil or other fossil fuels, but rather a shortage of adults in the room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Obama, in his speech today, took another thinly veiled shot at Governor Palin when he repeated his claim that an increase in the supply of a commodity won’t lower its price.

If you start hearing this “drill, baby, drill; drill, drill, drill” — if you start hearing that again, just remember you’ve got the facts — we’re doing that.  Tell me something new.

I can’t recall a president ever being so ignorant of basic economics. Supply and demand is not complicated. Neither is math. Well, maybe these topics are for an individual whose education was shaped by repeated exposure to Marxist dogma as espoused by the likes of Derrick Bell, Charles Ogletree, Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, etc., etc. I digress.

Someday, an alternative source of energy will be developed. But the development of an economically viable alternative that actually produces energy more efficiently than fossil fuels is decades in the future. And when it is developed, it will be done so by an entrepreneur in the private sector, not a political campaign contributor seeking the benefits of crony capitalism in return via taxpayer dollars for such boondoggles as Chevy Volts, algae, and solar shingles. (see Solyndra).

Free markets work, but, unfortunately for Obama, they’re an abstract curiosity about which he has zero understanding. Thankfully, if we muster the common sense to utilize the natural resources with we’re so richly endowed, we can easily afford to wait until an alternative to fossil fuels is technically and economically feasible, a point Governor Palin has been making since before she emerged on the national scene.

Update: Jazz Shaw: USA: An oil rich nation after all


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