One of the things I noticed in the State of the Union address by Barack Obama was a legion of contradictions, shaded truth, and outright fiction. These was never clearer than in the segment about oil and gas:
Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. (Applause.) Right now — right now — American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right — eight years. Not only that — last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years. (Applause.)
But with only two percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy. (Applause.) A strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.
We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. (Applause.) And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. (Applause.) Because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.
The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. (Applause.) And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock –- reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground. (Applause.)
Let’s hit the first paragraph with Bureau of Land Management numbers as provided by the Energy Today blog, shall we?
- New leases on Federal lands were down 44% in 2009/2010, compared to 2007/2008.
- Permits and new wells drilled were both down 39% during the same time frame.
- The economic downturn in 2007 was a factor in this decline, but leasing, permitting and drilling have rebounded on private lands; the decline in new permits in the West is significantly greater on Federal lands (-39%) than in non-Federal, private lands (-20%) over the last two years.
- Returning permitting, leasing and drilling at 2007/2008 levels would create 30,000 jobs over the next four years, and increase Federal royalties by $2 billion.
So “opening” land means zippity do dah: Leases and permits are where the action is, and neither have increased under this administration, as the President would have you believe. In fact, they’re down quite markedly.
Note also that the increases in leasing, permitting, and drilling have been on private lands.
There’s also the claim that there have been lower imports from foreign suppliers since Obama’s administration began, with the obvious intent that one is supposed to connect his claim above with that result.
Lower imports are the result of lower demand, and increasing production has come despite Obama’s policies, according to Jack Gerard, American Petroleum Institute President. The U.S. needs a “course correction” on energy policy that includes faster permitting on federal lands in the West and in the Gulf of Mexico, he said.
In case President Obama missed it, we’re in the middle of a deep recession—one that has driven the demand for oil down considerably. This has nothing to do with his own energy policies in particular and, in fact, had the economy been booming, the effect of those policies would have been much more widely felt, and an increase in foreign imports would have been likely.
As Institute for Energy Research president Thomas Pyle put it:
He also claimed credit for the fact that oil imports are down, even though the drop owes more to the ongoing hardships experienced by millions of Americans who cannot find jobs or afford to drive in the Obama economy.
And, of course, as mentioned above, if indeed the Obama administration would just return to 2007/2008 permitting levels, 30,000 jobs could be added to the economy immediately.
Then, of course, there’s the Keystone XL pipeline, which was ignored both in Obama’s discussion of energy and his remarks about infrastructure projects.
Pyle also took exception to the claim that the U.S. only has 2% of the world’s proven oil reserves:
The president continues to repeat the discredited mantra that America only has 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. The Institute for Energy Research released last month the North American Energy Inventory, which uses government data to demonstrate that America is literally floating on energy. Under North American soil is twice as much oil as the combined proved reserves of every OPEC nation combined. As for natural gas, we have enough on this continent to provide America’s electricity needs for the next 575 years at current usage [levels]. The president just isn’t being honest with the American people about the vast energy supply that is literally under our feet. His own government reports show it.
Then there’s fracking of natural gas: The administration would have you believe that it is dangerous to the public’s health. Thus, the lines about the public’s health and safety. But other than disinformation, there is little if anything to back this fear.
Only those who don’t understand the process fear it. As I’ve mentioned for some time, fracking is not new. It isn’t some new technology that has suddenly been discovered. Fracking has been in use in the U.S. for over 60 years, and has been used on over a million wells.
Suddenly however, it is “a threat to public safety.” Well, science tells us that’s most likely not true:
Professor Mike Stephenson of the British Geological Survey said most experts thought the process, known as fracking, was a “pretty safe activity”.
Professor Stephenson said the distance between groundwater supplies, 40m to 50m below the surface, and the sources of gas in the shale, a mile or two underground, made it unlikely methane would leak into water as a result of fracking.
He said: “Most geologists are pretty convinced that it is extremely unlikely contamination would occur.”
Additionally, and this is important:
“There’s natural methane in groundwater and you have to distinguish between what’s there already, and what might have leaked in.”
Natural methane like this. So, like global warming, it would be nice to distinguish the junk science from the real science, and deal with facts.
Not to wander too far afield, but this is just part of the spin that is evident throughout the speech on many subjects. It is, as one would expect, an entirely one-sided account that is designed to make a very thin and poor record look much deeper and richer.
Of course Obama isn’t the first or only President to do this—just the latest. But it is important to understand the disingenuousness of this attempt to persuade. Only then can anyone make an informed decision about his record.
As he likes to do, he’s treated us to glowing rhetoric, and very passable acting. But for the most part, he’s highlighted three years of accomplishing nothing (see the first post, with video) and even on the matters he is willing to claim the real truth (which is not so flattering to him), is to be found in the details.
He has a record, and he has to run on it. And despite all the spin and shading, it is not a good one.