A Fox Nation headline shouts: "RUSSIA HIRES EXXON MOBIL TO GET OIL OBAMA DOESN'T WANT." The headline accompanies a Breitbart.com post of the same title by AWR Hawkins about ExxonMobil's deal to develop Russian oil resources in the Arctic. The post is only a few paragraphs long but it gets an impressive number of things wrong. Let's take them one at a time. Hawkins begins by stating:
Here's the picture--Alaska contains a wealth of oil both on land, in ANWR, and off shore in its outer continental shelf. But President Obama and the Democrat party are staunchly opposed to allowing us to avail ourselves of it.
In fact, President Obama is expanding offshore drilling in the Arctic. You don't have to take it from me -- the VP of Shell Alaska has described the Obama administration as having responded "favorably" to its drilling plans. Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office questions whether regulators will be able to provide "sufficient oversight" of Arctic drilling operations given the "environmental and logistical risks associated with the remoteness and environment of the region." Hawkins continues:
And via the Keystone Pipeline, Canada could supply nearly 1,000,000 barrels of oil a day that we're not getting from Alaska, but Obama and the Democrats have stopped that too. As a result, the price we're paying per-gallon for gasoline is steadily climbing, and other countries are choosing to go where we won't for oil. Thus the oil Canada was going to sell us via Keystone will now go to China....
No serious energy analyst would agree that the administration's decision to delay Keystone XL is why gasoline prices have risen. And once the pipeline was up and running at full capacity in a decade or so, the impact on gasoline prices would be a matter of pennies, if anything. As for U.S. oil production, due to the scale of the global market, "we probably couldn't produce enough to affect the world price of oil," in the words of Ken Green from the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
Hawkins claims that the U.S. will be missing out on Canadian oil in the absence of the Keystone XL pipeline, but as FactCheck.org has noted, "There's nothing to prevent more Canadian oil from coming into the U.S. right now" since "existing cross-border pipelines already have much more capacity than they are using" and will have excess capacity until at least 2020. An analysis conducted by the oil consulting firm EnSys for the Department of Energy found that U.S. oil imports are "insensitive" to "whether or not KXL is built and projected that in 2030, the amount of oil we import from Canada would be the same with or without the pipeline. Hawkins again:
... and oil up near the Arctic will be going to Russia. And the company Russia has hired to do the extraction is none other than Exxon Mobil. Think about how backward things are under Obama--the largest oil company in America is going to be drilling in waters around the Arctic where they expect to find 85 billion barrels in recoverable oil. And instead of sending it to Texas refineries, and thereafter to gas stations across America, the oil will be sent to Russia and refined for their use.
I'll let energy expert Robert Rapier handle this one. He responded via email: "This oil is not in U.S. waters and so Obama has nothing to do with it. Further, the vast majority of ExxonMobil's business is outside the U.S. Most of what they develop is overseas. So it isn't like Russia hired one of 'our guys' -- this is what they do every day. They develop that oil, and it is sold into the global market. It isn't like it would have been earmarked for the U.S. even if this had been in U.S. territorial waters." Petroleum produced in the United States is not reserved for American consumers -- it goes to the highest bidder. And the fact that ExxonMobil is drilling outside of the U.S. surprises noone familiar with the oil industry. Hawkins closes by stating:
By the way, if extracted at the rate of 1 million barrels a day, 85 billion barrels of oil would last for 85,000 days. 85,000 days equals well over 200 years. Yet here we are, listening to Obama telling us the future is one of wind farms, electric cars, and a companies like Solyndra. Perhaps we'll get lucky and Russia will sell us some of their oil. If Obama keeps us in this energy stranglehold we're going to need it.
That's some useless math right there. If we produce 1 million barrels a day, it "last[s]" 200 years? Let's produce 500,000 barrels per day, so it lasts well over 400 years! Here's what's missing: Humans consume almost 90 million barrels of oil every day, and demand from Asia is growing rapidly -- which means we can extract every drop of oil from the U.S. and we'll still be paying high and volatile prices absent some massive subsidy program. But more to the point, those 85 billion barrels of oil and gas aren't ours for the taking -- the oil fields are in Russian territory, which is the cherry on top of the reasons that this narrative, like so much of the energy commentary in conservative media, is fundamentally misguided.