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Can Obama Move Beyond 'Drill, Baby Drill'?

Nathanael Baker's picture
, EnergyBoom Media Inc.

Nathanael Baker is the Managing Editor of EnergyBoom. He has been immersed in the areas of renewable energy and climate change for two years. Before joining EnergyBoom, Nathanael was the Director...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Mar 20, 2012

Speaking in front of college students in Maryland on Thursday, President Barack Obama blasted the “drill baby, drill” calls that are starting to resurface across the country, especially in Republican circles.

Using simple arithmetic, the President debunked the idea that drilling for more oil will not only lower gas prices, but also solve the country’s energy quandary.

“There’s a problem with a strategy that only relies on drilling and that is, America uses more than 20 percent of the world’s oil.  If we drilled every square inch of this country — so we went to your house and we went to the National Mall and we put up those rigs everywhere — we’d still have only 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.  Let’s say we miss something — maybe it’s 3 percent instead of 2.  We’re using 20; we have 2. Now, you don’t need to be getting an excellent education at Prince George’s Community College to know that we’ve got a math problem here.”

Taking his political adversaries head on, Obama further explained that more drilling is occurring in America today than in the eight previous years.  Certainly speaking to the conservative bent of the country, the President listed off a series of facts relating to his support of the world’s most powerful industry. 

The most striking could be that the government has opened up millions of acres of land for oil and gas exploration, including massive swaths of oceanic territory.  According to the President, more than 75% of the country’s offshore oil resources have been opened up.

“So don’t tell me that we’re not drilling. We’re drilling all over this country.  If you start hearing this ‘drill, baby, drill; drill, drill, drill,’ just remember you have the facts — we’re doing that.  Tell me something new.”

The ‘new’ story Obama is referring to is a transition away from oil dependency and into an era of new, homegrown, clean energy sources.  Obama has made no secret of his affinity for clean energy and energy efficient technologies. 

When he was elected three years ago, he came in with a plan to change America’s energy future by tackling climate change.  After spending a large amount of his political clout reforming the country’s health care structure, Obama had little left to take on the increasingly religious battle climate change has become.

After losing the House to the GOP in 2010, the President had to further dilute his energy platform in order try and push this new era forward.  And, after some notable failures of government backed renewable energy companies such as Solyndra and Beacon Power, conservatives took the President to task for wasting the public’s money in a time where many Americans are cash-strapped.

During this year’s State of the Union address, Obama showed his resolve around the new energy story, and unveiled his “all of the above” energy strategy.  A key component of this plan is taking on “Big Oil.”  With the oil industry positioned as one of the richest and most mature industry’s in the world, the President has called for an end to the $4 billion annual subsidies the sector receives from the American people.  Displacing an industry so firmly entrenched in the American psyche is a herculean task. 

And the battle lines have been drawn in this election year.  Since January, Obama has been campaigning his new energy platform across the country, while Republican hopefuls have tied themselves to the fossil fuel industry.

On Thursday, Obama took the gloves off regarding the energy policies of his Republican counterparts.  He compared them to narrow-minded naysayers that have threatened innovators and visionaries like Columbus, the Wright brothers, and Ford. 

“Now, here’s the sad thing.  Lately, we’ve heard a lot of professional politicians, a lot of the folks who are running for a certain office talking down new sources of energy.  They dismiss wind power.  They dismiss solar power.  They make jokes about biofuels.  They were against raising fuel standards. We’re trying to move towards the future; they want to be stuck in the past. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail — they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. “

The question as always is:  does America have the courage to evolve and step into this new era of energy, economy, and growth.

Geoffrey Styles's picture
Geoffrey Styles on Mar 19, 2012


It’s a shame that the President’s “simple arithmetic” is mostly wrong on this subject, despite its supercilious delivery. Based on figures from his own Department of Energy, the US consumes 21% of the world’s oil but also produces nearly 9% of it–more when you count “refinery gain.”  And that “2% of reserves, maybe 3%” talking point that we’ve heard so many times ignores discovered and undiscovered “technically recoverable resources” that are at roughly 9x larger than the proved reserves behind his 2% figure, constituting nearly as much oil as we’ve produced cumulatively since 1859.  And note that that 2008 estimate is based to a large extent on assessments that haven’t been updated since the 1980s, before the advent of 3d seismic and a host of other new technologies. 

Simply put, the President expresses a common but far too pessimistic view of the potential of this country to supply more of its energy needs domestically. 

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Mar 21, 2012



Wind power and solar power just simply won’t replace oil, and biofuels are nowehere near being viably able to replace Oil in terms of the scale neccessary.

Surely the president who is an inteligent man understands this.

 Moreover, The President is as much a “Professional Politician”, also running for ” A certain Office”, as the Republicans he is ridiculing. And worse, he really has nothing to show for all the billions he’s spent on renewables,  that is remotely positioned to replace the Oil that we’re drilling for.

Now in spite of having no substitute for oil, the president is quite prepared to allow the price of gas to go higher and higher in the hopes that if the price of gas were to get high enough, that would somehow magically bring about the appearance of a viable substitute for gas, for the american people. He seems to care very  little for the American people who are becoming more and more impoverished by higher and higher gas prices, nor does he want to permit drilling for some of the oil we already know we have, much less the oil we might find /discover elsewhere.

My suggestion would be for the president to permit and encourage development of any and all locally available oil  and oil pipelines in the US and Canada.

Doing this would tend to delay increases in gas prices, and it will keep more of the dollars we spend on oil in our hands and in the hands of our friends the Canadians, who won’t turn around and fund our enemies with our own petro-dollars, like the Iranians for example are prone to doing.

This in my mind is the responsible thing to do, instead of chasing after some Pie-In-The-Sky ideology in the guise of an energy policy.



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