On Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore falsely claimed that “in the outer continental shelf,” the United States has “more oil available than Saudi Arabia.” Similarly, the New York Post claimed in an editorial that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) “could eventually produce close to what America now imports from Saudi Arabia” -- a claim also contradicted by U.S. Department of Energy estimates.
While advocating drilling for oil off the U.S. coast, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore again falsely claimed that “in the outer continental shelf,” the United States has “more oil available than Saudi Arabia.” Similarly, the New York Post claimed in a May 1 editorial that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) “could eventually produce close to what America now imports from Saudi Arabia.” In fact, according to one U.S. government assessment, Saudi Arabia has more oil reserves -- up to 10 times more -- than the entire United States, including offshore reserves. In addition, a U.S. Department of Energy study demonstrated that drilling in ANWR would most likely yield only about 900,000 barrels of oil a day by 2025, when ANWR could be in full production, compared with the 1.52 million barrels a day* the United States imported from Saudi Arabia in 2005.
Moore's claim on the April 29 edition of Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report that the United States has more oil “in the outer continental shelf" than Saudi Arabia is contradicted by two U.S. government agencies' findings. The Energy Information Administration (EIA), a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, estimates that the United States had about 21.4 billion barrels of proved crude-oil reserves at the end of 2004, including state and federal offshore reserves. As Media Matters for America has previously noted, in another report, the EIA cited three additional commercial estimates, which, depending on the source, said the United States has between 21.4 billion barrels and 29.3 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, while Saudi Arabia has between 262.1 billion barrels and 266.8 billion barrels of proved oil reserves. “Proved oil reserves” are defined by the EIA as “estimated quantities that analysis of geologic and engineering data demonstrates with reasonable certainty are recoverable under existing economic and operating conditions.”
Statistics from another agency -- the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) -- also refute Moore's claim. A USGS analysis, which uses a different methodology to assess the “ultimate oil resources” available to each country, found that the United States has up to 255.2 billion barrels, while Saudi Arabia has up to 374.2 billion barrels. Media Matters previously debunked a similar claim by Moore.
The New York Post's claim concerning the potential supply of oil from ANWR is also contradicted by EIA's findings. The Post's editorial, about the politics of high oil prices, stated:
Bush has offered some nominally wiser actions, such as lifting environmental regulations that slow production.
But he's given less than sufficient support for another worthy step: drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Out of concern for a few caribou, Democrats -- and some weak-kneed Republicans -- have blocked drilling there that could eventually produce close to what America now imports from Saudi Arabia.
No question, high gas prices are painful. But America will cope. Indeed, the high prices themselves will be an incentive to conserve.
But the Post's claim that opening ANWR to oil production could “produce close to what America now imports from Saudi Arabia” is not supported by EIA estimates. In fact, the United States purchased significantly more oil from Saudi Arabia in 2005 than it would obtain annually from ANWR at full production. Based on the EIA's estimates, in 2025, when ANWR is projected to be fully operational, it would most likely be producing about 900,000 barrels a day; the United States imported about 1.52 million barrels of oil a day* from Saudi Arabia in 2005. The Post's editorial appears to have based its claim of ANWR's potential on an improbable “high resource case” cited in the EIA report, but using the “high resource case” is misleading. The EIA cited a USGS report, which shows that the “high resource case” has only a 5 percent likelihood of occurring, while the mean case, which translates to 900,000 barrels a day, is a much more likely scenario.
From the EIA's 2004 report “Analysis of Oil and Gas Production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” :
In 2025, the coastal plain of ANWR is projected to reach 0.9 million barrels per day under the USGS mean oil resource case, and 0.6 and 1.6 million barrels per day under the low and high resource cases, respectively.
From the April 29 edition of The Journal Editorial Report:
PAUL GIGOT [Wall Street Journal editorial page editor]: Steve, craziness on Capitol Hill this week as Congress tried to respond to the politics of gas prices. Are they doing anything useful, or is it all just making things worse?
MOORE: No, just another example that what we need is remedial economics training for Congress.
Almost every idea that's come out of Capitol Hill this week has been bad. Everything from the windfall-profits tax, the idea of giving people a $100 rebate, raising corporate average fuel efficiency standards.
One of the things that -- when you hear Hillary Clinton talking about, “Why are we facing these high gasoline prices?” , one of the things the Republicans should be saying is, look, for 20 years we've been trying to drill oil from Alaska, which is the largest untapped reserve in America. Democrats and some Republicans have consistently blocked that. They have blocked drilling in the outer continental shelf, where we have more oil available than Saudi Arabia has.
So if you can't produce oil, guess what folks, you're going to have higher prices.
*Calculation: 556,006,000 barrels (EIA table) imported from Saudi Arabia in 2005 divided by 365 days equals 1,523,304 barrels of oil imported each day from Saudi Arabia.