In which Obama shabbily attempts to perpetuate the myth of energy scarcity

The president likes to repeat that oil production is at an all-time high under his administration. He also likes to emphasize “we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” After all, he argues, we have just 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves — but we consume 20 percent of the world’s oil.

Energy experts say the president’s rhetoric isn’t exactly forthright. It’s unfair for the president to take credit for record high oil production. Not only does it take oil three to five years to come online, which means the previous administration was responsible for approving the exploration and drilling permits that led to increased production, but oil production on federal lands actually declined from 2010 to 2011. Oil production on private lands is responsible for the increase. The specifics:

As has reported, oil production on federal lands declined in fiscal year 2011 from fiscal year 2010 by 11 percent, and natural gas production on federal lands dropped by 6 percent during the same timeframe.

In contrast, oil production on private and state lands accounted for the entire increase, reported the IER, as production was up 14 percent from 2010 to 2011. Natural gas also was up 12 percent from 2010 to 2011.

The president’s claim that we have just 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves is also misleading, according to the Institute for Energy Research. When the president uses that 2 percent figure, he’s talking about the country’s current proven oil reserves — not about the country’s recoverable oil. We have enough of that to fuel the nation for the next 200 years, IER experts say.

The president is right that “we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices,” but his preference for subsidizing alternative energy production doesn’t directly target transportation costs, either. Wind and solar aren’t transportation fuels, after all.

The president should signal — not just to the United States, but also to OPEC — that he is committed to drill for oil and natural gas. The fairest way to do that is to ease the regulatory burden on energy companies — not to subsidize his preferred producers. If his administration doesn’t pick up the pace of permitting, then producers won’t be able to maintain the current high levels of production, let alone increase it.

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