It's hard to avoid political nonsense in 2012 unless you've decided to live like a monk and shut off all the noise. I can't do that because I write this blog. Oil prices are on everyone's mind because gasoline prices are very high too early in the spring. (The national average for regular unleaded now sits at $3.898/gallon.) Following the mindless rules of political partisanship, Republicans blame the President for these high gas prices. And then there is Barack Obama fighting back, chart in hand, touting the fact that during his admininstration oil imports have declined steadily.
From whitehouse.gov's Our Dependence on Foreign Oil Is Declining by Megan Slack (if that really is her name)
My former writing colleague Robert Rapier, tongue planted firmly in cheek, made a domestic production graph which seems to strengthen Obama's case. It only seems that way.
From Robert Rapier's Are President Obama’s Policies Causing U.S. Oil Production to Rise? Rapier's point is that the oil policies of the sitting president have nothing to do with current oil production. The U.S. is producing as much crude oil today as we were in 2001. Whoop-ti-do!
Now, a total fool could put 2 + 2 together and get 5 by concluding that Barack Obama is fueling America's drive toward energy independence. And it is that kind of "thinking" that the Republicans and Democrats are counting on. On their side of the idiot fence, the Republicans use the "drill, baby, drill" mantra to discount Obama's alleged seriousness, stressing that he is a liberal after all, and that means he's an environmentalist, and that means he's anti-growth (and a socialist besides). Of course nothing could be further from the truth, but never mind.
The New York Times weighed in with a recent article U.S Inches Toward Goal Of Energy Independence by Clifford Krause and Eric Lipton. Krause visited Midland, Texas to do the article, which must have been a rare foray outside of New York City for him. It's almost impossible to find any real data in this article, so this passage stood out.
“One day we were rolling in oil,” recalled Jim Foreman, the general manager of the Midland BMW dealership, “and the next day geologists were flipping burgers at McDonald’s.”
The burger-flipping days are definitely over. Today, more than 475 rigs — roughly a quarter of all rigs operating in the United States — are smashing through tight rocks across the Permian in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.
Those areas are already producing nearly a million barrels a day, or 17 percent more than two years ago. By decade’s end, that daily total could easily double, oil executives say, roughly equaling the total output of Nigeria.
“We’re having a revolution,” said G. Steven Farris, chief executive of Apache Corporation, one of the basin’s most active producers. “And we’re just scratching the surface.”
Wow, I am impressed! We were producing about 850,000 barrels-per-day in the Permian Basin two years ago, and after deploying 475 drilling rigs, we are now producing about 1 million barrels-per-day. And Krause and Lipton managed to put this article together without mentioning the Eagle Ford and Bakken shales. Those are the places where the bulk of America's new oil production is coming from.
But the intent of the New York Times is not to analyze of America's future domestic crude oil production. That article, and Obama's chart, and all the rest of this nonsense is political in nature. My intention today is not to carry out such an analysis because I already did one in January. Look at Where Is U.S. Oil Production Going?
The simple point I want to make today comes from this chart from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Read the caption carefully.
This data shows U.S. oil consumption since 1990. The EIA recently changed its chart tool, and in this graph it is difficult to see the decline in American demand because they've screwed around with the Y-axis (thousands of barrels per day), seemingly to hide the the decline. So I've drawn a helpful blue arrow to indicate that decline. Before the economic meltdown in late 2008, U.S. demand was typically in the 20-22 million barrels-per-day range. Today demand is typically in the 18-19 million barrels-per-day range (4-week averages).
Once you understand that U.S. oil demand is down significantly because the economy sucks, you can see why the White House imports graph is largely meaningless, though domestic crude oil production has indeed risen to its "lofty" 2001 level over the last few years.
Hyping American energy independence is just so much election year nonsense. As long as gasoline prices are high and rising, this hyperbole will continue. If you want to maintain what little sanity you've got left after prolonged exposure to all this mind-fucking propaganda, I recommend you ignore this drivel until it finally goes away on Tuesday November 6th.