Obama Administration, Environmental Lobby Responsible for Low Oil ‘Reserves’

Published June 13, 2011

President Obama’s speeches sum up his views on oil, natural gas, and energy prices in just 44 words.

“We have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. We’re running out of places to drill. We’re running out of oil. We need to end our $4 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to oil companies. We need to invest in clean, renewable energy.”

As Congressman Joe Wilson would say, “That’s a lie!” Or at least a deliberate distortion of facts.

‘Reserves’ Is a Misleading Term
Oil “reserves” are what can actually be produced at today’s prices, with existing technologies, and under current laws and regulations. America has vast oil, gas, and coal resources—centuries of potential hydrocarbon energy. We have the technology to extract it, especially at $100 a barrel. What we don’t have are laws and regulations that allow us to do so.

If the President were honest, he would say: “We’re running out of oil that Democrats, my administration, and our radical environmentalist allies will let this country produce. We’re running out of places we’ll let companies drill. We have 2 percent of world oil reserves because we’ve made most of our resources off limits.”

If he were honest, he would also say, “We will demonize, penalize, hyper-regulate, tax, and kill hydrocarbons. But we will mandate and subsidize wind, solar, and ethanol, ignore their environmental and human costs, and extol the measly, expensive, unreliable energy they produce.”

Leases Denied
Gulf of Mexico oil production is projected to drop 240,000 barrels a day this year. That’s $9 billion that America will have to pay this year to import replacement oil … $1.3 billion we won’t collect in federal royalty payments … thousands of jobs that won’t be “created or saved” … and billions in corporate, personal income, and sales taxes we won’t collect.

The U.S. Geological Survey says upwards of 90 billion barrels of oil remain to be discovered in the Arctic. ANWR alone could hold 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil, in places totaling 1/20th the surface area of Washington, DC. But it’s all off limits to We the People who own it.

Shell Oil spent $3.5 billion exploring and acquiring leases in the Chukchi Sea—but the Interior Department and EPA refuse to issue drilling permits, arguing diesel emissions from the rig could cause global warming or affect the health of natives 20 to 50 miles away!

Thwarting Other Sources Too
Made in America technology and innovation have unlocked centuries’ worth of new natural gas supplies in U.S. shale formations. This game-changing development has reduced gas prices and devastated the “we’re running out” mantra. So the environmental activists have rallied the troops to produce a bogus “documentary” film (Gasland), a sloppy Cornell University “study,” and reams of new EPA regulations to stymie shale gas.

Coal generates half of all U.S. electricity. So EPA has issued 946 pages of new air quality rules and launched a massive propaganda campaign against power plant mercury emissions, even though those power plants account for barely 0.5 percent of all mercury in the air Americans breathe. President Obama has said he wants to “bankrupt” the industry.

All told, more than a billion acres of U.S. energy prospects are locked up. Yes, there are “no quick fixes” for our energy problems, as President Obama loves to remind us. But if we’d begun drilling in some of these places 10-20 years ago, we wouldn’t be in this fix today.

Subsidizing Losers
As to subsidies, even the alleged billions for oil companies are a pittance compared to subsidies for wind, solar, and ethanol. Subsidies per unit of energy produced are even more shockingly biased. According to the Energy Information Administration, gas-fired electricity generation received 25 cents per megawatt-hour (mWh) in 2007 subsidies; coal got 44 cents. Wind turbines got 23.4 dollars, and photovoltaic solar received 24.3 dollars per mWh.

Solar panel maker Solyndra snagged a $535 million stimulus” loan in 2009; then, the day after the 2010 elections, it announced it was laying off 190 people. In April 2011 alone, the Energy Department poured $9 billion in loan guarantees into wind and solar projects that will blanket large swaths of crop and wildlife habitat land.

Wind and solar produce electricity just two to eight hours a day, with backup generators making up the monumental shortfall. That means we must duplicate every megawatt of wind and solar with a MW of backup power.

Ethanol receives subsidies of $5.72 per million Btu (190 times what oil and gas companies get) so we can burn food to make fuels the government won’t let us drill for. In 2010, U.S. farmers turned 36 percent of their corn crop into ethanol, which provides 30 percent less energy than gasoline—meaning cars get less mileage per tank for more bucks per gallon. Making one gallon of this substandard fuel also requires some 1,700 gallons of water and large quantities of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides.

Energy economist Indur Goklany calculates biofuel policies cause up to 200,000 deaths a year in poor countries by raising food prices, increasing malnutrition, and making people more vulnerable to disease.

Overall, since assuming power in Washington, the Obama administration has channeled over $60 billion into the “green jobs” sector.

And the renewable energy subsidy train rolls on.

Paul Driessen ([email protected]) is senior policy advisor for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and Congress of Racial Equality, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power—Black death.