Oil, that is. Black gold. Texas tea.

So yesterday morning I spent entirely too much time looking up oil prices and information about current US oil production rates. Why? Because someone on the internet was wrong, that’s why. Also, as mentioned previously, I hate my brain.

I have a lot of conservative friends and family members (hi everyone!) and a lot of them like to post about politics on their Facebook pages. One of these friends posted this yesterday on her Facebook status:

Gas up to $4.21. Nice economic recovery. Sigh.

Pretty mild, really, and not even particularly partisan. You could imagine a Democrat saying the same thing, and I’m sure a lot have, as frustration with the sluggish economic recovery is pretty universal, although of course each side has different opinions as to the causes.

But what followed in the comments was kind of humorous. While I’d estimate that the ideological mix of my friends is probably about 3-to-2 liberals to conservatives, this particular friend’s mix is more like 9-to-1 conservative to moderate, with just a handful of liberals thrown in.  (We like to joke that we are forming a band.) So almost immediately the comments took an anti-Obama turn.

One commenter wrote this:

Interesting definition of high crimes and misdemeanors.

I thought that sounded a little off, since only two days before I had read something about oil production in the US being at very high levels.  So I found a Houston Chronicle article that said:

After declining to levels not seen since the 1940s, U.S. crude production began rising again in 2009. Drilling rigs have rushed into the nation’s oil fields, suggesting a surge in domestic crude is on the horizon.

The number of rigs in U.S. oil fields has more than quad­rupled in the past three years to 1,272, according to the Baker Hughes rig count. Including those in natural gas fields, the United States now has more rigs at work than the entire rest of the world.

So I posted that link in my usual humble manner, suggesting that perhaps some actual facts might be helpful to the discussion. I was accused of spinning. Awesome.

That same commenter linked to a conservative blog called California Political News (capoliticalnews.com) which quoted a posting on the congressional website of Natural Resources Committee Chair Doc Hastings (R-WA) and made the following claim:

Oil and natural gas production on federal lands is down by over 40% compared to ten years ago. Carney does not explain that the vast majority of increased production is occurring on private lands in states such as North Dakota, not on federal lands.

Now if you follow that link that says “down by over 40%” you will see this incredible so-awesome-I-couldn’t-make-it-up message:

I don’t really know what that message means, exactly, but it is certainly not hard evidence of anyone’s point.  Unless your point might be that conservatives will believe anything you tell them if a) they already want to believe it, and/or b) you provide a link to something, anything, don’t worry they won’t click it, that’s too much work.

Anyway, that was the highlight of the conservative argument that Obama is responsible for high gas prices. It all went pretty much downhill from there, although I was particularly amused when one of the commentors informed me that I was a typical Obama-supporting moron. I am making that a new tag.

My (very conservative) father came out to visit my family the week after the election in 2008, and I remember very distinctly getting into a conversation with him about the price of gas, which had dropped like a stone in recent weeks. I remember it because he had said something that had momentarily left me speechless, something about how the oil companies were dropping the prices to make it harder for Obama to push through any of his energy independence ideas. I remember thinking that aliens had replaced my father with a left-leaning conspiracy theorist. I really didn’t know what to say, because for that brief moment in time, my father was kind of almost to my political left, which is, as the kids say, un-possible.

Anyway, this dumb Facebook argument made me think of that conversation and so I went looking for more data on gas prices by month/year, and I found gasbuddy.com.  I’m wondering if people have forgotten how big that drop was.  I think so; I was shocked.  Here’s a chart for the last six years:

So basically, gas prices had risen pretty steadily over the entire course of George Bush’s presidency (as gas prices do, I’m not blaming Bush) and then for some reason, they dropped from $4.12 to $1.61 just before the 2008 election. And then they started rising again (as gas prices do). I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, I really don’t. But… I mean…

We political nerds can see where this is all going. Now Republicans can accurately say that gas prices have risen from $1.61 to $3.62 (or whatever) since Obama was elected. And never mind the actual facts, such as that oil production has increased over the last three years, or that gas prices were at an abnormally (even if not artificially) low rate when the election occurred. And they all seem to have their talking points ready.

As one commenter followed up on Facebook:

To which I replied, “In my face!!!”

Fox News is getting in on the action, because well, because of course. They printed this awesome graphic (h/t Media Matters):

Does anyone see any discrepancy between what Fox posted there, and this chart (or the one above, which matches)?

No? Well, thanks for checking out my blog then, conservative friends!

UPDATED: My father-in-law asked for some evidence that total actual production is up, not just the number of wells.  It’s a good question, and one I should have addressed originally.  Here are the numbers for 2004-2010, from the US Energy Information Agency.

2004: 5,419,000 barrels per day.
2005: 5,178,000 barrels per day.
2006: 5,102,000 barrels per day.
2007: 5,064,000 barrels per day.
2008: 4,950,000 barrels per day.
2009: 5,361,000 barrels per day.
2010: 5,475,000 barrels per day.

The numbers for 2011 will be published in July. As you can see, the numbers have increased each year (all 2 of them that we have numbers for) since Obama took office.

Author: Wiesman

Husband, father, video game developer, liberal, and perpetual Underdog.

4 thoughts on “Oil, that is. Black gold. Texas tea.”

  1. Jon, interesting piece. However, nowhere in your article do you show any evidence that total domestic oil production is up! You point out that there are more wells being drilled on private lands, and production is down 40% on public lands (does that count the gulf?) but no where do you show total oil production increasing. Drilling wells does not equate to production and I doubt if that would offset the 40% drop in public land production. Facts, please my uber liberal but beloved son-in-law!

  2. fox news: we plot logarithms of selectively chosen data points without telling you so as to hide real trends, you decide!

  3. For the first time since data collection started on this in 1993, the US is actually a net exporter of petroleum products, at 380k a day. This is down from 2005 when we were a net importer of 5m b/p/d… not to mention the US hasn’t been a net importer of gasoline since 1959.

    It’s not a matter of economic recovery, but rather volatility in the international market that causes gas prices to be what they are. It is estimated that instability in Iran has added at least 10% to what the real price of oil is in the US despite the fact that we don’t import any oil from Iran and the amount of oil that Iran exports to Europe can be made up in spare capacity from Saudi Arabia.

    Furthermore, single trades can have a significant price on oil, most notably in 2008 when a single trader made a $6700 investment in oil at 50 cents above the market price, which actually caused the entire global market to respond by increasing the price of oil by…50 cents or .5% of the total commodity price.

    Some good reading on it all:


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