Obamateurism of the Day

Energy policy really isn’t Barack Obama’s forte, is it?  No wonder Steven Chu keeps giving himself A grades on his performance; he’s leading the curve.  Here’s Obama yesterday managing to screw up one of his standard claims about American oil capacity by confusing it with American oil production:


President Barack Obama’s struggled to defend his price-boosting energy policies during a speech in Cushing, Okla., today, even as rapidly spreading criticism and rising gas prices damage his poll ratings.

“He was incredibly defensive because little of what he says is true — that’s his dilemma,” said Dan Kish, a vice president at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Energy Research.

Speaking off-the-cuff, Obama mistakenly said that “we only produce 2 percent of the world’s oil.”

According to the federal government’s energy administration, the United States produces 10 percent of the world’s production, making it the third-largest oil producing nation.

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. … This is the most incompetent administration I’ve ever seen — and I started under [President] Jimmy Carter,” Kish said.

The formulation Obama wanted to use was a familiar talking point that asserts that the US only has two percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, not its production. Normally Obama doesn’t fumble that line, and he’s been using it a lot lately as gas prices continue to rise rapidly. Even that, though, relies on carving the truth up so finely as to be utterly misleading, as it relies on a government definition of “proven reserves” that includes several heavy qualifications, including whether the oil can be retrieved within current regulations.


Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler ripped Obama yesterday on this point:

As we explained before, “proven oil reserves” has a very strict definition, in part because reserves are considered actual assets owned by companies. The oil must have been discovered, confirmed and economically recoverable, with at least 90 percent certainty.

But in his Prince George’s speech, Obama claimed that even if “we went to your house and we went to the National Mall and we put up those rigs everywhere, we’d still have only 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.” In New Mexico, Obama declared, “even if we drilled every square inch of this country, we’d still only have 2 or 3 or 4 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.”

That’s just simply wrong. The United States has the same number of barrels of proven oil reserves — 22 billion — today as it did in the 1940s. That’s because new sources of oil kept getting found, more-difficult-to-obtain oil suddenly became more economically viable, new oil-extraction techniques gained favor, and so forth.

So, in light of the president’s statement in Prince George’s County (and in New Mexico), we are going to change our ruling to Two Pinocchios.


Either way, the President keeps misleading people … and this time managed to confuse even himself.


Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at[email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!

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