President Obama and his interior secretary, Kenneth L. Salazar, have been amazingly creative in trying to convince us that they’ve actually promoted a robust domestic energy agenda and increased oil production. But it only takes a little research to conclude that Mr. Salazar and the Obama administration have been flat-out wrong with some of their claims and incredibly misleading with others.
Obama claim: Domestic oil production is up under his administration.
Last month, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service issued a report revealing that 96 percent of the increase in domestic oil production since 2007 has occurred on nonfederal lands, production the federal government has little or no role in.
But the federal government owns and completely controls almost 2.5 billion acres of land and offshore zones, including our Outer Continental Shelf, an area that is actually larger than the entire land mass of the United States. What’s been happening with oil production there? The government’s own director of the Bureau of Land Management, Bob Abbey, testified to Congress on this very point recently: Oil production is actually down 14 percent on federal property and down 17 percent offshore from a year ago.
The recent Congressional Research Service report confirms this: In 2011, production on federal property declined by an average of 275,000 barrels per day.
So when Mr. Obama says oil production is up, he’s right - and utterly misleading. It’s up because of private-sector activity on nonfederal land that Mr. Obama and the federal government have very little say over (though they’re trying to change that in significant ways). Almost everywhere they play a major role, production is down.
Obama claim: Oil production on federal land and offshore is up since the president took office.
This is another very interesting Obama manipulation of the data and again, utterly misleading.
Oil production on federal property did increase in 2009 and 2010. This was a result of leasing and permitting decisions made by the President George W. Bush’s administration, not Mr. Obama’s. In contrast, the fall-off from the leasing and permitting actions of the Obama administration is very significant, as noted above in the 2011 figures. It’s projected to get even worse in 2012 and beyond.
That’s because Mr. Obama’s five-year lease plan for offshore is half of what the previous plan was - moving us in the wrong direction. And permitting in the Gulf of Mexico is still more than 40 percent below levels prior to the BP oil spill.
Obama claim: “America only has 2 percent of the world’s oil.” This is the real grandaddy of all Obama energy statistics.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. We are the single most energy-rich country in the world, bar none.
Mr. Obama bases this statement on our nation’s “proven reserves.” But the president’s own Energy Information Administration has stated that proven reserves is “not an appropriate measure for judging total resource availability in the long-term.” It’s a very narrowly defined universe because more than 90 percent of our U.S. energy resources have been placed off-limits by the Obama administration.
For example, according to the Institute for Energy Research, the “[U.S. Geological Survey] estimates that unconventional U.S. oil shale resources hold 2.6 trillion barrels of oil, with about 1 trillion barrels that are considered recoverable under current economic and technological conditions. These 1 trillion barrels are nearly 4 times the amount of oil resources as Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves.”
None of this is counted in the Obama statistics.
Now you know “the rest of the story,” as radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say. It explains the difference between what we know in our gut and what we hear out of Mr. Obama’s Washington. And as usual, it confirms that we should trust our gut.
As bad as the Obama energy reality is, the good news is that America can turn the tide rapidly and take control of our energy destiny. That’s because we are, as previously stated, the single most energy-rich country in the world, bar none. All we need to do is have a government that lets us produce it.
If the president and his administration spent less time crafting their labored image of promoting domestic energy production and spent more time actually opening up our vast federal resources, we’d be on our way to building energy independence, to helping lower the price at the pump, to creating millions of good-paying jobs - even on our way to increasing revenue and lowering deficit and debt, since new domestic production would produce enormous new federal revenue.
Sen. David Vitter is a Louisiana Republican.