How much truth is there in President Obama's latest favorite mantra that we consume a disproportionate share of the world's oil, especially considering how little of the world's reserves we have?
Recently, Obama said: "But here's the thing about oil. We have about 2, maybe 3, percent of the world's proven oil reserves. We use 25 percent of the world's oil. So think about it. Even if we doubled the amount of oil that we produce, we'd still be short by a factor of five."
First, let's look at the raw numbers and then examine Obama's misleading framing of the issue. This is important because he uses these statistics to justify his reckless expenditure of federal funds to pursue alternative "green" energy sources, such as the disgraceful and scandalous Solyndra project.
The United States has some 20 billion barrels of oil in reserves. By "reserves" we're talking "proven" reserves, meaning those that are certain to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions. That is, we have 20 billion barrels of oil that is recoverable at current prices and under lands currently available for development.
That definition excludes many oil reserves that Obama has declared off-limits. According to the Institute for Energy Research, we have more than 1.4 trillion barrels of oil that is technically recoverable in the United States with existing technology. The largest deposits are located offshore, in portions of Alaska and in shale deposits in the Rocky Mountain states. So the United States has more recoverable oil than the rest of the non-North American world combined. The Heritage Foundation says this is enough to fuel every passenger car in the nation for 430 years. Therefore, "it is merely semantics -- not a scientific assessment of what America has the capacity to produce -- that allows critics to claim repeatedly that America is running out of energy."
When you add in recoverable resources from Canada and Mexico, the total recoverable oil in North America exceeds 1.7 trillion barrels. "To put this in context, Saudi Arabia has about 260 billion barrels of oil in proved reserves."
Another critical point: Even using the restrictive definition of reserves Obama is using, the 20-billion barrel figure is misleading, because Obama is clearly implying it is a fixed, or static, number -- as though with every barrel of oil we consume, we are pushing the oil energy doomsday clock another second toward the apocalypse. But in fact, that number is not static, but constantly in flux.