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As U.S. gas prices steadily rise to alarming levels, Republican presidential hopefuls have pointed to the Obama administration’s dysfunctional energy policies as a significant influence in the distressing trend. It’s an issue that endangers the president’s re-election prospects and Team Obama is now in full defensive mode, simultaneously claiming that it is “all in” with respect to energy sources of all sorts, while it says that it has also made important inroads toward increasing domestic oil production and reducing dependence of foreign oil.
In order to support these claims, the administration turned to the tactic that has become a staple among global warming alarmists: pick a couple of convenient data points that support your position, claim they are representative of an overall trend and let the ever-gullible, technologically ignorant mainstream media regurgitate the message. For example, Obama has tried to mollify critics by saying that domestic production of crude oil is up to the highest levels that we’ve seen over the past eight years. While that is technically true, it’s a meaningless factoid, for the president doesn’t seem to understand – or refuses to acknowledge – that market forces have raised the value of crude oil enough that domestic production has marginally increased over the already pitiful rates of 2004.
The fact is that United States’ domestic crude oil production topped out at about 3.5 billion barrels per year in the 1970s, according to Department of Energy statistics (see graph below). Since then domestic production has steadily declined, as both Congress and presidential administrations of both parties have sacrificed energy independence in favor of appeasing environmental radicals. By 2004 – the year that the administration cites as the benchmark – domestic production had dropped more than forty percent, to about 2 billion barrels per year. Since then, domestic production has basically leveled out in the 1.8 billion to 2 billion barrel per year range, nowhere close to what we could actually produce if somebody in power had the wisdom and courage to tell leftist environmentalists to find something else to complain about. So yes, 2012 domestic production is creeping a bit higher than the already pitiful 2004 figures, simply because oil prices are high enough to bring more marginal wells back into production, but the Obama administration had nothing to do with that dubious achievement.
The president also attempted to dabble in the unfamiliar realm of free market economics, asserting that the only way to reduce gasoline prices was to reduce demand and thus the United States must consume less petroleum products. This we have been doing. Overall consumption of crude oil in the United States has dropped almost ten percent since the peak year of 2005. Interestingly, that reduction – along with reductions in burning coal to produce power – have also resulted in significant drops in greenhouse gas emission in the United States since 2005, something that the president strangely fails to mention. (The Obama administration’s EPA recently released its annual greenhouse gas inventory report, in which it picked 1990 as the benchmark year in order to claim an overall rise in United States’ greenhouse gas emissions, while it pretty much ignored the overall reductions that have been achieved relative to 2005).
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