Bush misleads on ANWR

The president lashes out at Congress on land in Alaska that could be used for oil drilling, but his rosy promises on that issue don't hold water.

By Alex Koppelman

Published April 29, 2008 4:10PM (EDT)

At a White House news conference Tuesday, President Bush sought to place much of the blame for the nation's economic woes on Congress. Americans are "looking to their elected leaders in Congress for action," Bush said. "Unfortunately, on many of these issues, all they're getting is delay ... I've repeatedly submitted proposals to help address these problems. Yet time after time Congress chose to block them." But at least one of the solutions Bush offered during his remarks doesn't hold the promise he suggested, and the statistics he cited to make his case were at best misleading.

"Members of Congress have been vocal about foreign governments increasing their oil production, yet Congress has been just as vocal in opposition to efforts to expand our production here at home," Bush said, referring to efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in Alaska, to oil drilling. "The Department of Energy estimates that ANWR could allow America to produce about a million additional barrels of oil every day, which translates to about 27 millions of gallons -- gallons of gasoline and diesel every day," Bush added. "That would be about a 20 percent increase of oil -- crude oil production over U.S. levels -- and it would likely mean lower gas prices."

Notice he cited U.S. levels? That's a much, much lower bar to reach, as -- according to the Energy Information Administration -- on any given day, the U.S. imports almost twice as much crude oil as it produces. And while he promised "about a million additional barrels of oil every day," he neglected to mention that, according to Energy Literacy Advocates, the U.S. uses 21 million barrels of oil a day. The additional production would account for less than five percent of our current total oil use.

Moreover, Bush discussed the opening of ANWR as a shorter-term solution than biofuels or hydrogen, and said, "Somehow if you mention ANWR it means you don't care about the environment. Well, I'm hoping now people, when they say ANWR, it means you don't care about the gasoline prices that people are paying."

If people ever do use Bush's chosen formulation, I hope they change it a little to conform with reality -- I'd suggest something like, "When they say ANWR, it means you don't care about the gasoline prices that people will be paying 20 years from now." In 2004, the EIA released a report saying that if Congress were to allow drilling in ANWR that year, the oil would not actually begin flowing until 2013 and peak production would not be reached until 2025. Even then, according to the Associated Press, oil prices would be reduced by less than 50 cents a barrel (assuming oil was at about $27 a barrel -- as of this post, even after a decline, light, sweet crude for delivery in June was at $116.44 a barrel). And "even at peak production, the EIA analysis said, the United States would still have to import two-thirds of its oil, as opposed to an expected 70 percent if the refuge's oil remained off the market."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

George W. Bush War Room