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Four Lies About America's Energy "Crisis"

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Oil prices are escalating and Americans soon may pay $5 for a gallon of gasoline.  This grim fact has not escaped the notice of politicians.  America's latest energy crisis has prompted heated rhetoric from Republicans and Democrats.  Here are four lies that have been bandied about.

 

1. The gas crisis is President Obama's fault. In the 2012 presidential campaign, Republicans planned to run on the economy, but it's been improving.  They turned to cultural issues such as contraception, but gained no traction.  Now some GOP candidates are seeing rising gas prices as their opportunity.  Recently,the chair of the Republican National Committee wrote, " Thanks to the president, America is running on empty".

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Most Americans don't hold President Obama responsible for rising gas prices.  A new Washington Post poll spread the blame around: 18 percent of respondents blamed President Obama, 14 percent the oil companies, 11 percent "Iran/Middle East," a whopping 38 percent cited other reasons, and 24 percent didn't know who to blame for rising prices.

 

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The United States doesn't lack energy, in general, but we don't have enough oil.  That's the economic "elephant" in the room, the genesis of our gas woes.  The worlds' largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, has reserves of 260B barrels and produces 10M each year; 2M barrels go to the US.   The world's most desperate energy consumer, China, has oil reserves of 20B barrels, produces 4M each year, and consumes 8M.  The United States has oil reserves of 19B barrels [1.4 percent of the world total], produces 9M each year, and consumes 19M barrels. 

 

There are many theories about why gas prices have risen, but the most logical explanation was voiced by Washington post columnist Ezra Klein: Americans are caught in an economic vise between the world's largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, which holds exports steady to keep the price up, and the world's most desperate consumer, China, which has no choice but to buy oil at whatever the price is.  China's demand is driving world gasoline prices up and the US is suffering.

 

2. President Obama hasn't done anything to increase America's energy supply.  Republicans claim the President has no energy policy and that's the reason for the gas crisis.

 

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On March 7th President Obama spoke about his energy strategy:

" If we are going to control our energy future, then we've got to have an all-of-the-above strategy. We've got to develop every source of American energy -- not just oil and gas, but wind power and solar power, nuclear power, biofuels. We need to invest in the technology that will help us use less oil in our cars and our trucks, in our buildings, in our factories. That's the only solution to the challenge. Because as we start using less, that lowers the demand, prices come down" Since I took office, America's dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year. In fact, in 2010, it went under 50 percent for the first time in 13 years . 

 

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.

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