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Obama’s statements on oil are wrong

Posted: May 18, 2012 at 10:50 am   /   by

President Obama says,”We [Americans] consume about 25 percent of the world’s oil, but we “only have 2 percent of the reserves,” and as a result, “We’ve got to discover and produce cleaner, renewable sources of energy.” This kind of language is similar to rhetoric we’ve heard from a long line of players on the environmental left. I clearly recall hearing the same thing from professors in college. Sometimes, the percentage of reserves is replaced with a citation of our percentage share of the world’s population, but the gist is always the same. We use to much energy. We’re greedy, dirty hogs. Bad . . . BAD.

One thing those particular professors and Barack Obama have in common is that they are not scientists. They do not have the expertise to verify that the numbers they are citing are accurate. They are simply exgurgitating talking points.

And as it happens, these talking points are simply incorrect. David Limbaugh hits Obama’s numbers head on, and then Mark Rochelle (a.k.a. The Debunker) comes in from another angle: Oil consumption compared with GDP

Global oil demand was 89.1 billion barrels per day last year, according to the International Energy Agency. The U.S. Energy Information Administration put daily U.S. consumption at 18.8 million barrels; so, our consumption was actually about 21 percent of the total.

However, global GDP was about $63.3 trillion last year, according to the World Bank. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Research put U.S. GDP at $15.3 trillion; so the U.S. contributed about 24.2 percent of the total. Thus, as a share of the totals, the U.S. contributes more to global GDP than to global oil consumption.

Is it unreasonable to use 21 percent of the world’s oil to produce 24 percent of the world’s total value of goods and services?

It’s funny, because I remember refusing to let one of my professors get away with sliding this piece of propaganda into (what was supposed to be) a Russian literature class. I didn’t have specific data, but my reaction was a generic version of Rochelle’s point about GDP. Yes, we use a lot of resources, but we also make a lot of  stuff. Things the world uses. Things we use here to good effect. Should we stop producing and live in mud huts? Would you give up your car and house? (In spite of my unwillingness to let her slide on such comments, I think this professor may actually have liked me nonetheless. Go figure.)

But Rochelle isn’t done:

U.S. has more than “proved” reserves

Obama’s claim that the U.S. has only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves refers only to currently “proved” reserves. But despite rising consumption, proved reserves more than doubled from 1980 to 2009. As oil analyst Daniel Yergin observes, “Just in the years 2007 to 2009, for every barrel of oil produced in the world, 1.6 barrels of new reserves were added.”

Regarding what the president calls “our long-term needs,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that “ultimately recoverable global reserves” of oil and natural gas total 2.4 trillion barrels, of which 185 billion barrelsmore than 15 percent—are in North America. In addition, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates domestic reserves to include another 2 trillion barrels of shale oil. This is nearly twice the reported reserves of all OPEC counties combined, meaning that the total U.S. share is not 2 percent, but closer to two-thirds of global reserves.

Obama’s rhetoric, as is so often the case with this kind of thing, geared towards a specific aim: driving taxpayer money into alternative energy. And as we have seen, this desire goes beyond a mere ideological attraction to such forms of energy. Rather, it involves funneling taxpayer money to Obama’s friends and political allies.



It’s a couple of years old now, but John Stossel’s piece on this subject remains potent and informative.



From the video description:

175-315 Billion barrels of oil are recoverable at $15 a barrel in the Oil Sands of Alberta, Canada. With a remaining potential of 1.7-2.5 Trillion barrels using advanced recovery techniques. Who knows what they’ll discover tomorrow, but we know today, that in Canada’s oil sands alone, the supplies will last over 100 years.

Despite Popular Belief, The World is Not Running Out of Oil, Scientist Says (University of Washington)

Its a myth that the worlds oil is running out (The Times, UK)

Oil, Oil Everywhere… (The Wall Street Journal)

Oil Innovations Pump New Life Into Old Wells (The New York Times)

Oil: Never Cry Wolf—Why the Petroleum Age Is Far from over (Science);304/5674/1114

Christopher Cook

Christopher Cook

Managing Editor at Western Free Press
Christopher Cook is a writer, editor, and political commentator. He is the president of Castleraine, Inc., a consulting firm providing a diverse array of services to corporate, public policy, and not-for-profit clients.

Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including (now a part of Western Free Press) and He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to
Christopher Cook

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Obama's statements on oil are wrong