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Pro-pollution conservatives torture logic to blame Obama’s policies for higher gasoline prices

By Joe Romm on March 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

"Pro-pollution conservatives torture logic to blame Obama’s policies for higher gasoline prices"

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Conservative attacks on Obama keep defying logic.  First, former Big Oil lobbyist Haley Barbour said oil prices rose because Obama’s policies cut U.S. oil productions — except production has sharply increased under Obama.  Then Sen. Inhofe (R-OIL) claimed Mideast unrest isn’t causing the price surge, a clean energy bill the Senate never voted on is.

FalseThen Fred Upton claimed his pending bill to overturn science and block EPA curbs of greenhouse gases will “stop rising gas prices,” which Politifact debunked as “False” here. Media Matter put together an impressive list of independent experts who say it’s simply “not credible” to claim that Obama’s drilling policies caused — or even contributed to — the recent price jump.

The lastest group to torture waterboard logic in an effort to blame Obama is the pro-pollution, Koch-fueled Heritage Foundation.

CAPAF’s Daniel J. Weiss rescues logic below.

The Heritage Foundation has joined conservative efforts to pin high gasoline prices on President Obama, even though it’s really due to unrest in the Persian Gulf.  They laughably compare gasoline prices during the first two years of the George W. Bush and Obama administration, and then illogically conclude that Bush’s energy policies were better.

Drawing conclusions based on the first years of their presidency is like bragging about winning the basketball game after leading in the first quarter.  There is still a long way to go before the game ends.  Politico concluded that “the GOP attacks may have no basis in fact when it comes to changing short-term prices at the pump.”

However, if comparisons are the game of the day, let’s compare apples to apples by comparing the entire eight year record of Bush compared to the entire eight year record of President Bill Clinton.  (See graph) Within two years, gasoline prices under Bush began to rise, never to fall to Clinton levels again until his last month when the gasoline price collapse followed the economic collapse that occurred in September 2008.  (All figures in 2011$)

And even Heritage noted that “the price of gasoline reached historic levels, rising above $4/gallon during Bush’s second term.”  In addition to launching the Great Recession, Bush had the highest record gasoline prices of $4.11 per gallon in July 2008.

Three of the four largest weekly price increases occurred under Bush. Gas prices went up 45 cents in just one week, wreaking havoc on budgets for American families and for American businesses. In the meantime, oil companies amassed record profits; in the decade between 2001 and 2011, the top five oil companies made almost a trillion dollars in profits.

Domestic oil production under President Obama is the highest since 2003.  In December 2010, the U.S. produced 5.6 million barrels per day of oil, the most since 5.7 mbd were produced in 2003.  Using Heritage’s flawed reasoning, Bush policies favored high prices and low production, while Obama has increased production.

The Heritage excuses Bush for his record high gasoline price by noting that

other mitigating factors were at work between those two [administration] time periods. U.S. demand is one such factor, as is global supply disruptions, cartel pricing and the cost to refine and distribute.

The same could be said about the high gasoline prices that we are experiencing today. Fluctuations in the price of oil depend in part on the balance between global supply and demand. Analysts agree that unchecked speculation, unrest in the Middle East, and increased demand from India and China are responsible for the recent spike in the price of oil.

clinton bush prices

Interestingly, conservatives often resist efforts to reduce foreign oil imports by opposing improved fuel economy standards, advanced bio fuels, investments in advanced battery research, public transportation, and other policies to provide alternatives to oil.  The Obama administration is implementing these steps right now.

Conservatives lack any short term solution to high oil prices that would help relieve the current economic discomfort of middle and low income families.   ”Drill, Baby, Drill” is not a policy, it’s a slogan.  The reality is that EIA determined that

Thus, conversion of the newly available OCS resources to production will require considerable time, in addition to financial investment. Further, because the expected average field size in the Pacific and Atlantic OCS is smaller than the average field size in the Gulf of Mexico, a portion of the additional OCS resources may not be as economically attractive as available resources in the Gulf.

The OCS areas that were until recently under moratoria in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Eastern/Central Gulf of Mexico are estimated to hold roughly 20 percent (18 billion barrels) of the total OCS technically recoverable oil””10 billion barrels in the Pacific and nearly 4 billion barrels each in the Eastern/Central Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic OCS.

This is the long way for EIA to say that it will take a long time to produce the limited amount of oil available in these newly opened areas.

Increasing the domestic production of oil cannot bridge the gap between our use and supply.   America has only 1.6 percent of the world’s proven reserves but consumes 25 percent of global supply. In other words, this country will always rely on foreign nations for oil regardless of how much we are able to ramp up domestic production. And oil will always be priced to the international market, putting American consumers at the mercy of every natural, political, or financial disaster that comes along.  The only certain path is to reduce oil use via investments in clean energy alternatives.   Heritage’s phony Bush-Obama comparison is distraction from that critical task.

Source: Energy Information Administration

Daniel J. Weiss, CAPAF senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy. Thanks to Junayd Mahmood, CAPAF energy intern.

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7 Responses to Pro-pollution conservatives torture logic to blame Obama’s policies for higher gasoline prices

  1. Roger Blanchard says:

    Joe,

    One aspect of the increasing price of oil that I never see mentioned in the media is that global liquid hydrocarbons production has been pretty well flat since 2004. Irrespective of whether there are problems in the Middle East or not, it’s reasonable to expect oil prices to continue to increase in general if demand doesn’t decrease. Another point is that the oil industry is increasingly adding natural gas liquids and biofuels to the mix so the energy density of the mix is declining.

    As I’ve stated several times, the US DOE/EIA, USGS and MMS have a terrible record of projecting future oil production or providing accurate assessments of recoverable oil so I view the assessed volumes for the offshore Atlantic and Pacific as pretty much worthless.

    In 2010 the USGS had to downgrade their assessed volume of technically recoverable oil in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to about 1/10th of their previous estimate.

    I recently wrote a commentary, still not out because I’m waiting on Dec. 2010 data, in which I looked back at a paper I wrote in 1999 about U.K. and Norwegian oil production. My projections for their summed oil production in 2010 is off 0.0% through the first 11 months of 2010 while the US DOE/EIA is high by 116.0%. I wouldn’t assume that anything the US DOE/EIA, USGS or MMS projects or assesses is remotely accurate.

    The post appears to want to attribute the increase in U.S. oil production in 2009 and 2010 to President Obama. It is the result of an extended effort to increase production in the deepwater GOM and Bakken Shale region that you could say started in 1994 in the case of the deepwater GOM.

    As for the deepwater GOM:

    Seven +50,000 b/d fields were brought on-line in the deepwater GOM during 2007-2010 with a summed peak projected production of ~900,000 b/d. That led to a substantial increase in deepwater production for 2009 and 2010. Just as in the case of North Sea oil production, there are a limited number of large fields to bring on-line in a timely manner to negate the decline of the older deepwater fields. Only 2 significant fields are expected to come on-line during 2011-2013 with a summed peak projected production of 90,000 b/d.

    Looking at 6-month increments for total GOM oil production, production reached its highest level in the second half of 2009 at 1.73 mb/d. In the first half of 2010 it was down to 1.63 mb/d and for the first 4 months of the second half it was down to ~1.59 mb/d suggesting that deepwater GOM production may have peaked although yearly production in 2010 should be higher than in 2009.

    Oil geologists have a good idea about where the most favorable locations are to drill for oil and that’s where they look first. They find the big fields early in the exploration phase. In the deepwater GOM, oil companies have had a good 15 years of extensive exploration and have drilled wildcat wells down to the Mexican border. What they are doing now is increasingly going into less favorable areas and with that, future exploration results will be less favorable.

    In the case of the Bakken Shale region, production has ramped up quickly. The USGS claims that there is 3-4 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil in the shale which probably means maybe around 2 billion barrels (the state of North Dakota has estimated the amount of technically recoverable oil at 2.1 billion barrels). Based upon my modeling of production from the Bakken Shale and a continuation of the percentage production rate increase that has occurred over the last two years, production could peak around 2015.

    Roger Blanchard
    Sault Ste. Marie, MI

  2. Steve says:

    Right wing fascists in America who control the Republican party have a legion of followers that will believe almost anything that is spoon fed to them. If they were told the world is made out of green cheese, most of these people will believe it without question.

  3. jyyh says:

    The falling crude price amidst the Japanese catastrophe is yet again another sign of the times.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It is impressive how propaganda organs like the Heritage mob set out with pre-determined results already set in concrete, then torment logic, rationality and the facts in order to reach those a priori determinations. The entire edifice of rationality, of the disinterested search for the closest approximation to the ‘truth’, of the ‘scientific method’ has gone out the window. We are back to the days before the Enlightenment, that great achievement of the very same ‘Western Civilization’ that the Right always invokes when they are demonising Islam, or China, or ‘green Gaia worshippers’ etc. “Magical thinking’, ‘faith-based science’,vulgar and misleading distortions of Adam Smith, contemporary cargo-cults like market worship, ‘Invisible Hand’ pretensions, ‘rational expectorations’, all are grist to the mill of the supreme objective. To transfer as much of the planet’s wealth into as few, preferably Western, hands as possible, (taking into account the ability of the forces of ‘law and order’ to maintain social control), while immiserating the rest. Marx was, as ever, quite correct in his appreciation of the character and psychology of the masters. They do intend to impoverish everybody else, while piling up huger and huger fortunes. It does look, however, that their geo-political machinations in the oil-rich Middle East have hit a snag, and it would be a rich irony if their total support for the brutal dictatorships, particularly in the Gulf, rebounds on their heads as the biggest oil price spike yet.

  5. Roger says:

    As a scientist/MBA/father (chronological order), I find the current anti-science, pro-business, anti-people movement to be a nightmare!

  6. more Obama bashing says:

    As the uncontrolled markets Obama administration has endorsed and given a free pass (subprime hoaxers not in jail & their accounts confiscated) is based on lying or twisting the truth or telling half truths to potential customers they are entirely right to blame Obama for the high oil price.

  7. Prasad says:

    If gas prices come down then only common man can live happily