Obama’s Claim of Increasing Domestic Drilling Not Accurate, Say Energy Analysts

February 23, 2012 - 4:55 PM

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President Barack Obama speaks at a fundraiser in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com)

– President Barack Obama does not deserve credit for increased domestic energy production, according to non-partisan energy observers, as well as critics.

President Obama spoke to a crowd in Miami on Thursday about rising gas prices. Today, the national average for one gallon of unleaded gasoline is $3.57, which is 18 cents higher than a month ago, according to AAA. In Florida, where he spoke, the average price per gallon is $3.68. The speech comes less than a month after Obama rejected the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would have run from Canada through the midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.

“Under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years,” Obama told the audience at the University of Miami. “That’s why we have a record number of oil rigs operating right now – more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined.”

The increase in domestic drilling was almost entirely in areas for which the Obama administration exercised no authority, as oil production on federal land declined by 11 percent in fiscal year 2011, according to a study by the Institute on Energy Research (IER), a free-market energy think tank. But oil production on state lands increased that year by 14 percent and increased by 12 percent on private lands.

“A lot of the wells that were supposed to be drilled weren’t because of the moratorium,” Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the IER, told CNSNews.com. “Drilling is up in the U.S. on lands he has no say over. On lands he has all the say over, drilling is down.”

Obama also told the Miami crowd that foreign oil dependence is down under his watch.

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Offshore oil rigs. (AP Photo)

“We’re making progress on this front,” he said. “In 2010, our dependence on foreign oil was under 50 percent for the first time in 30 years. In 2011, the United States relied less on foreign oil than in any of the last 16 years. Because of the investments we’ve made, the use of clean, renewable energy in this country has nearly doubled, and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.”

“We’re taking every possible action to safely develop a near hundred-year supply of natural gas,” said Obama, “something that experts believe will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.”

However, FactCheck.org said that foreign-oil dependence has been declining since 2005, when President George W. Bush was in office. It went on to cite the same Energy Information Administration report from 2011 that said, “There is no single explanation for the decline in U.S. oil import dependence since 2005. Rather, the trend results from a variety of factors. Chief among those is a significant contraction in consumption. U.S. oil product deliveries declined by 1.7 million barrels per day (bbl/d) to 19.1 bbl/d in 2010, from 20.8 million bbl/d in 2005.”

Gasoline Prices

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

“This decline partly reflects the downturn in the underlying economy after the financial crisis of 2008,” the EIA report continued. “Not surprisingly, demand has bounced back somewhat from a low of 18.8 million bbl/d in 2009, when the U.S. economy bottomed out. But the downward trend in consumption started two years before the 2008 crisis and reflects factors such as changes in efficiency and consumer behavior as well as patterns of economic growth.”

PolitiFact.org, another fact check organization, cited Obama’s boasts of reduced dependence on foreign oil as “half true.”

“But as PolitiFact has reported before, deep-water production comes after years of exploration and preparation,” the group reported. “It does not happen overnight and gains made during Obama’s term so far have roots in previous administrations and economic difficulties that have had factories and households paring back.”

The states with the highest average gas price per gallon are Hawaii, with $4.26; California, $4.04; Alasaka, $3.93; New York, with $3.88; and Connecticut, with $3.87, according to AAA. Drivers in Wyoming have the best deal, paying on average $3.05 per gallon.

Energy companies have sought to use induced hydraulic-fracturing to get oil or natural gas from rocks. Energy companies contend it is a strong source of energy production but environmentalists believe it could pollute the air and water.

The Department of Interior is drafting more restrictive regulations on hydraulic fracturing on federal property that it hopes states will use.

Obama’s insistence that he supports an “all of the above” strategy for energy production is not evident by his actions, said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute.

“Today, 85 percent of the outer-continental shelf has been placed off limits once again. When he took office, there were proposals on the table to open up opportunities in those areas,” Gerard told CNSNews.com. “Today, in the Rocky Mountains, the leasing has gone down 70 percent since taking office. We now have 10 federal agencies, departments, looking at the technology of hydraulic fracturing, which has really opened up this vast game-changer both in natural gas and oil in the United States.”

He added, “The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, the proposed increase in taxes, those are all inconsistent with the verbal message of an all-the-above bring along domestic supply.”