There is no truth to the right-wing myth of a catastrophic diesel shortage
Tucker Carlson pushed diesel shortage disinformation days after getting fact-checked
On October 28, Fox News host Tucker Carlson spent his entire opening monologue (over 13 minutes) blaming President Joe Biden for high energy prices, promoting fossil fuel usage, and insinuating that the U.S. will run out of diesel fuel by Thanksgiving.
Fact-checking website Verify specifically debunked Carlson’s diesel claims in an article published three days later.
Unabated by these facts, Carlson again pushed the idea of an imminent diesel catastrophe in a segment on November 3. He began the segment by saying, “According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States is about to run out of diesel fuel. Our supply of diesel will be exhausted in less than a month.”
Why Tucker Carlson is wrong about diesel fuel
Similar to his language on November 3, Carlson stated on October 28, “Thanks to the Biden administration's religious war in Ukraine, this country is about to run out of diesel fuel. According to data from the Energy Information Administration, by the Monday of Thanksgiving week — that’s 25 days from now — there will be no more diesel. So what’s going to happen then? Well, everything will stop.” Tucker ended his monologue by looping back to the supposed diesel calamity, stating that “we have 25 days to avert economic catastrophe.”
In the days since the original October 28 monologue, there has been a wave of right-wing TV news reporting on the idea that either the U.S. will run out of diesel before Thanksgiving, or that there is a looming diesel shortage that is the sole fault of the Biden administration.
Again, the problem with this reporting is that none of the claims about the U.S. running out of diesel are true.
On October 31, the aforementioned fact-checking website Verify ran an article with the subhead “The U.S. won’t run out of diesel fuel before Thanksgiving, as Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others have claimed on social media.” In this piece, the author spoke to several energy analysts who debunked the notion, and who also pushed back upon the idea of a looming diesel catastrophe.
They noted that while it’s technically true that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) 25-day supply of diesel fuel number is correct, it’s being misinterpreted. The author noted that the EIA metric “measures the days’ worth of supply if U.S. refineries stopped producing oil and the industry stopped importing it from other countries.” This is not the same as the U.S. running out of diesel in 25 days.
Oil expert Andy Lipow was quoted, saying, “We will not run out of diesel in 25 days unless we simply stopped producing or importing and drew down inventory. I know of no government agency predicting the country will run out of diesel by Thanksgiving.” GasBuddy’s Patrick De Haan agreed, calling it “completely inaccurate” that the country will run out of diesel fuel in 25 days.
Regarding a looming catastrophic shortage, De Haan dismissed this idea, stating that while supplies are tight, “it is not yet to the point where people are going to notice widespread disruptions [and] widespread outages, so I would disagree with qualifying it as a shortage.” Energy expert Ed Hirs also agreed with this assertion, noting that there is no current shortage of gasoline or diesel in the U.S.
Carlson’s October 28 and November 3 segments placed the blame for this supposed diesel catastrophe at the feet of the Biden administration. This is also false. Speaking to Newsweek on November 2 about general diesel fuel problems and prices, De Haan stated that "Biden is not to blame — this is due to lack of refining capacity, which has fallen 1 million barrels a day, primarily due to COVID-19 in 2020 curbing demand.” Other factors here include seasonal maintenance at many refineries, as well as extreme weather and explosions prompting shutdowns at other refineries. Finally, Russia’s war in Ukraine has also disrupted the global oil market.
A week after Carlson’s initial segment, De Haan told Politico that “those diesel Armageddon stories are just not coming to fruition.” In the same piece, Lipow stated that “no one is suggesting we’re going to shut down all the refineries at once.”
So, while there are certainly supply chain problems and increased diesel prices in the U.S., it’s unfounded to say that the country is running out of it by Thanksgiving, or that we’re on the verge of a massive shortage. The lack of supporting evidence hasn’t stopped right-wing media, particularly on Fox News, from fearmongering about how diesel supplies are running dry any moment.
Fox News scares viewers into thinking there’s an imminent diesel shortage
Though the Verify piece that specifically targets Tucker Carlson came out on October 31, Carlson and other Fox News personalities have continued running segments promoting the idea that either the U.S. will run out of diesel fuel by Thanksgiving, or that there’s a shortage.
- Fox News host Sean Hannity: “The Biden economy is going from bad to worse as the country is now facing the real possibility of the diesel fuel shortage this winter and a real possibility that heating bills spiking north of 30% especially in the Northeast this winter, as Biden's energy policies now continue to cripple our energy security.” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/2/22]
- Outnumbered co-host Harris Faulkner says that we are seeing a “shortage of diesel.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 11/2/22]
- Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt: “Government data shows the country has just 25 days of diesel supply remaining. Pretty scary especially for families in the Northeast where it’s going to be cold very soon. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/2/22]
- Fox host Laura Ingraham says that there is a “looming diesel shortage” that could “cripple the U.S. economy.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 11/1/22]
- Fox News host Carley Shimkus says that the supply of diesel is “dangerously low” as cold weather approaches. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/31/22]
In addition to Fox News, Fox Business Channel and Newsmax have also been mentioning a looming diesel catastrophe.
- Wake Up America co-host Rob Finnerty fearmongered about a “diesel fuel crisis that's going to affect all of us.” Finnerty continued, “Basically, diesel drives everything — you say it drives trucks, trains, barges, ships, and all of that will cease to run if this diesel shortage continues. Diesel stocks are down to 25 days now. That's the lowest level we've seen since 1951. Harry Truman was president.” [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 11/2/22]
- Newsmax host Chris Salcedo says there will be a diesel fuel shortage this winter, solely blames Democrats for U.S. energy problems: “Fuel suppliers are warning of a worsening diesel fuel supply crisis. As America heads into Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Democrats and team Biden have cooked up an economic disaster for our people that will lead to fuel shortages and large price hikes, even larger price hikes, for goods that use fuel to get to market.” [Newsmax, Chris Salcedo Show, 11/1/22]
- Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo fails to point out that the EIA’s 25-day diesel number is not the same as it running out: “Look at today's diesel prices. … The U.S. Energy information administration is reporting that the country has only 25 days of diesel supply remaining system wide. Your thoughts on these dangerously low levels that we find ourselves in with regard to diesel, with regard to supply of oil in the strategic reserve.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 11/1/22]
- Newsmax’s Rob Schmitt Tonight featured an interview with Rick Perry blaming Biden for a variety of energy problems, all alongside a chyron reading “America faces a diesel fuel crisis.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 10/31/22]
- Fox Business anchor Jackie DeAngelis began a segment on fuel supplies by saying that the “U.S. diesel shortage is worsening across the country,” with supplies becoming “critically low.” The segment featured a chyron suggesting that diesel will run out in 25 days. [Fox Business, The Evening Edit, 10/31/22]
Republicans on social media amplify diesel shortage misinformation
Even after the October 31 Verify fact check, Republicans on social media have amplified the misleading narrative Carlson laid out about a supposedly looming shortage. Additionally, their attempts to blame Biden for diesel problems are part of their entirely false narrative claiming the Biden administration is waging war on the U.S. fossil fuel industry.
Although prices remain high (again, due to a number of factors in the global market and not solely due to the actions of the president), there are new developments that may help ameliorate the diesel situation in the U.S. Speaking to Newsweek on November 2, oil industry analyst Tom Kloza stated that refineries now have “a very high incentive” to continue producing diesel. In the same article, oil analyst Denton Cinquegrana noted that “the diesel situation is heavily concentrated in just one part of the country.” Additionally, diesel ships were recently diverted from Europe to help supply the U.S. Northeast, which is the region seeing the lowest supply of diesel. Finally, Kloza told NJ.com that refineries in the Northeast are starting to restart production after seasonal maintenance, and that we should start seeing higher inventories in the next two months. But the false narrative that Carlson and the right-wing media set in motion is still being circulated on social media by high profile Republicans.
- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA): “In Joe Biden’s America, the oil and gas industry is being destroyed, we are on the verge of a diesel fuel crisis, and our SPR is almost empty because Democrat’s are foolishly forcing us onto the Green New Deal.” [Twitter, 11/2/22]
- Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA): “This diesel shortage is threatening to crush America’s truckers and farmers — the backbone of our economy. The entire supply chain will feel the impact. RT if you agree: Biden needs to wake up to this crisis and unleash American energy production NOW.” [Twitter, 11/2/22]
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “Welcome 2Pres Biden’s America where on DAY 1 he put restrictions on gas/oil & now reserves for diesel lowest since 1951 when the U.S. population was half of 2day / Pres Biden saying we need to tax companies during a shortage fails common sense if u tax something u get less of it.” [Twitter, 11/2/22]
- Sen. Cythia Lummis (R-WY): “Our nation’s diesel fuel supply is alarmingly low. Inflation is already causing the cost of basic goods to skyrocket, which is exacerbated by this fuel shortage. The Biden admin needs to increase domestic energy production to stop this dangerous shortage.” [Twitter, 11/2/22]
- Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR): It's time for Biden to start taking the diesel shortage seriously. [Twitter, 11/1/22]
- Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL): “The fake news ‘media’ won’t cover the Biden Diesel Crisis because they are partisan Democrats who support Biden & won’t write anything critical of Democrats. The partisan propaganda from the ‘press’ is a betrayal of their responsibility to hold the Biden Regime accountable!” [Twitter, 10/31/22]