During the Friday event at which President Obama announced $2 billion in new green energy subsidies, he erroneously credited his administration's "all of the above" energy policy for the nation's increased oil and gas production. "We produce more oil than we have in 15 years," he said. "We import less oil than we have in 20 years. We're producing more natural gas than we ever have before -- with hundreds of thousands of good jobs to show for it."
The numbers and facts that Obama cited were all correct. But his claim is still false, unless he can somehow claim credit (and we wouldn't necessarily put it past him) for placing massive shale deposits below ground stretching from Texas to North Dakota and from the mountain West to western Maryland.
Obama's energy policy has done nothing positive for the current boom in the "unconventional" (shale and tar sands) oil and gas extraction industry -- a boom that has providentially boosted employment, improved the nation's balance of trade, and probably saved the incumbent president from defeat last November. Further, Obama has actually reduced oil and gas production on federal lands, where it genuinely falls under his power. A recent study by the Congressional Research Service found that all of the increased production from fiscal years 2007 to 2012 took place on nonfederal lands.
Between fiscal 2010 and 2012, total U.S. oil production rose by about 1.1 million barrels per day. U.S. production will likely eclipse that of Saudi Arabia by the end of the decade. Natural gas production is an even bigger story. It rose by 20 percent during the same period, driving down prices and revolutionizing the way Americans generate their electricity. This all comes thanks to advances in technology and hydraulic fracturing techniques.
During the same period, oil and gas production on federal lands fell sharply, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of production. Federal lands accounted for more than a quarter of U.S. gas production as recently as 2009, but in 2012 made up only 15 percent. Federal offshore gas production in 2012 was less than half what it was in 2007.
Obama has made no secret of his goal of getting America off oil completely. His latest plan to subsidize green energy is funded by $2 billion in fees on oil and gas companies. He announced in his Saturday radio address that his goal is to "shift our cars and trucks off of oil for good."
How much more important will American oil production have to become to the health of the economy before Obama gives up on his ideologically charged defiance of economics and embraces oil and gas as the fuels of America's next century?