Obama's achievement: the US is the world's biggest oil producer, again

| 29th July 2014
In Obama's America, oil is no longer a sunset industry. Photo: Sunset in Texas by Reto Fetz via Flickr.
In Obama's America, oil is no longer a sunset industry. Photo: Sunset in Texas by Reto Fetz via Flickr.
The US, long the world's biggest oil consumer, has just surpassed Saudi Arabia to become the world's top oil producer, writes Don Lieber. Oil exports to Europe and Asia will begin shortly. Now what was that Obama said about climate change? Oh, forget it ...
I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing. - Barack Obama, June 2013.

Is President Obama's 'all of the above' energy policy a success? Or a calamitous climate failure?

report issued recently by Bank of America declared the United States has now surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer.

The daily output average for the first quarter of 2014 exceeded 11 million barrels, a significant increase from the previous quarters' (Sept-Dec 2013) average of 7 million barrels, according to the International Energy Agency.

The expansion of domestic oil production in the US has been significant under President Obama, supported by his 'all of the above' - or rather the American Petroleum Institute's 'all of the above' - energy strategy which has overseen a four-fold increase in drilling rigs under his administration.

And in other news ... CO2 levels above 400ppm

News of the surge in US oil production was reported almost concurrently with the release of another news item: global climate scientists have again reported historically high levels of atmospheric carbon.

As reported by Climate Central, June 2014 was the third month in a row in which carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere topped an average of 400 parts per million - a level not seen on Earth in at least 800,000 years.

Dr. Pieter Tans, a senior climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said,

"As long as human society continues to emit CO2 from burning fossil fuels, CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans will continue to increase ... It is urgent that we find a way to transition to non-carbon fuels as our source of primary energy."

And that's not counting rising coal exports

Despite these warnings, Obama's 'all of the above' policies have in fact supported the increased development of key fossil fuel production sectors:

  • Obama has approved new offshore drilling permits for the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic Ocean and (reversing a decades-long moratorium) off the East Coast.
  • Coal exports have risen to record levels under the Obama administration.
  • US oil exports, banned for over 40 years, are now being loosened by the Commerce Department, providing US oil companies the opportunity to target lucrative markets in Europe and Asia, also spurring the economic incentive to increase production as well as consumption.

Also increasing fast - the US's domestic oil consumption

The increase in US oil production also helps accommodate a surge of growth in US oil consumption. In 2013, US oil consumption rose by over 390,000 barrels per day from its levels in 2012, up to over 18 million bbd.

For the first time since 1999, the use of oil in the US rose more rapidly than in the rest of the world. These trends in both oil production and consumption stand in direct opposition to the warning calls from the scientific community about the consequences of increased burning of fossil fuels. This, from the most recent National Climate Assessment Report:

"The amount of (global) warming projected beyond the next few decades is directly linked to the cumulative global emissions of heat-trapping gases and particles.

"By the end of this century, a roughly 3°F to 5°F rise is projected under a lower emissions scenario, which would require substantial reductions in emissions , and a 5°F to 10°F rise for a higher emissions scenario assuming continued increases in emissions predominantly from fossil fuel combustion."

"The amount of future climate change...will still largely be determined by choices society makes about emissions."

Obama's defining 'achievement'?

President Obama's 'all of the above' energy strategy - in stark contrast both to his climate rhetoric and, more importantly, to the warnings of the world's leading climate scientists - indeed supports the continued production and consumption of the principal fossil fuel sources of man-made greenhouse gas emissions at a tragically wrong time in history.  

Our nation's 'achievement' in becoming the world's #1 oil producer - at the very time atmospheric levels of carbon continue to rise at historic, dangerous levels - represents nothing less than the huge climate change failure of  Obama's 'All of the above' energy strategy.

Here are some of President Obama's quotes on climate change and the need to move beyond oil:

"Someday, our children, and our children's children, will look at us in the eye and they'll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safe, more stable world?" - President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013.

"I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing." - President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013.

"The next generation will not be held hostage to energy sources from the last century. We are not going to move backwards. We are going to move forward." - President Barack Obama, June 2, 2010.



Don Lieber has written for the United Nations, The Associated Press, The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, E-The Environmental Magazine, and numerous non-profit organizations involved in international humanitarian affairs, the environment, and the arts. He contributes environmental reporting regularly to several blogs including DeSmog. Based in New York, he is also the bass player for the band WIFEY.

This article was originally published by DeSmogBlog.