Barack Obama provided a load of laughs on the campaign trail when he suggested that we could achieve energy independence not through drilling but through proper inflation of car tires. It took Senator Ma’am, California’s Barbara Boxer, almost two years to use this debunked meme as a talking point, but trot it out she did, as Kerry Picket reports for the Washington Times (Kerry has the audio there as well):
At a press conference on Thursday Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, California Democrats, along with Senator Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, and Senator Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat, presented legislation calling for a permanent ban on oil drilling off the West Coast. Democratic Senators Patty Murray of Washington and Ron Wyden of Oregon, while absent at today’s presser, are also part of the coalition, according to Senator Boxer.
Before showing pictures of oils soaked wildlife as a result of the BP oil spill, Ms. Boxer explained the legislation saying this bill would ensure that “there will never be offshore oil gas drilling off the west coast of our nation.” …
I later asked Senator Boxer, given California’s recent history of brown outs and black outs, what kind reliable energy could Californians rely on if she is looking to eradicate the oil industry on the West Coast? The green energy industry is too intermittent and why not consider nuclear energy instead? “If all of the people in the country for 25 days had the proper tire pressure in their cars you would replace all of the oil,” she said. “There is…this is such a little bit of oil in this area only enough to power the country for, you know, a year or so. So 25 days of people doing the proper pressure would replace it.”
Really? The areas of the OCS have been estimated to hold billions of barrels of oil, including the West Coast, which Boxers wants permanently marked off limits to exploration and drilling. OCS drilling could get between 250,000-1,000,000 barrels per day, if we actually started drilling for it. ANWR would get us in the 750K-1M BPD range alone.
How much would proper inflation save? We ran through the calculations in 2008, but David Price boiled it down to its basics for Dean Esmay’s blog:
How silly is this statement? Doing the math, it looks like he’s off by about an order of magnitude. The DOE link says you can save 3.3% and U.S. consumption is 20.8M barrels a day, half of which is gasoline, so even if fully half the population is driving on very poorly inflated tires you’re talking about only about 165,000 barrels a day, a tenth or less of the millions of barrels a day we could add in production. Hell, the mean estimate for ANWR alone is 780,000 bpd. …
Catch all the shifting goalposts, flawed assumptions, and bad math there? “All the oil we could get from drilling” becomes “the increase from expanded offshore drilling,” and even then uses a number that seems out of step with published estimates of 250,000 to 1 million bpd. Then we casually more than double the tire-inflation savings by tossing in “maintenance.” Then we throw out quantitative analysis altogether by using the impossibly vague “many drivers.” Finally, we ball up our morass of bad data into a misleading conclusion, and for emphasis we state explicitly the one assumption we always regarded as unassailable: Obama must be right.
In other words, check your tire pressure. It’s a good thing to do, both for fuel efficiency and for the life of your tires. Don’t expect it to solve the fact that we transfer hundreds of billions in wealth every year for importation of crude oil, losing both our capital and the job opportunities that come with domestic production. Instead of offering gimmicks, we should be setting the stage for further energy independence and economic growth. Instead, Boxer wants to gas on about tires.
Here’s Obama trotting out the same line in July 2008: