News Story

US Oil Boom Happened Despite Obama, Not Because Of Him

AP 'fact check' lacks context

The U.S. set a new record in December 2019 for the amount of domestic crude oil production.

The new record is 396 million barrels of oil pumped that month, breaking the previous mark of 393 million barrels per month, set just last October.

The milestone was the issue of an Associated Press “fact check” of a statement from President Donald Trump about the oil boom.

The AP stated, “In arguing, in essence, that he has made America great again, Trump took credit for an energy boom that actually began under Barack Obama in an assertion he recycled from his last State of the Union address.”

That time frame is not incorrect, but free-market energy analysts took exception to the AP implying that the former president had a hand in the oil boom.

“Just consider the notion at face value. Do you really think President Obama, arguably one of the most progressive, liberal, pro-environment presidents in recent history, would want to be responsible or take credit for America’s increased fossil fuel production?” asked Jon Haubert, spokesman for the Institute for Energy Research, a free-market energy research nonprofit. “Of course not. He wants his environmental legacy to be around action on climate change. In fact, his administration did what they could within executive and regulatory authority to stop fossil fuel production, coal included.”

Yet again, there is no question that the oil boom occurred during Obama’s two terms as president.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, domestic production of crude oil increased from 158 million barrels per month in December 2008 (the month before Obama took office) to 275 million barrels per month in January 2017 (Obama’s last month in office).

The upward trend has continued under Trump, reaching the record of 396 million barrels per month, set in December 2019.

Haubert said that Obama’s policies tried to restrain oil production in the U.S.

“He all but drove the oil industry to non-federal lands, virtually the only place left to drill in America,” Haubert said.

According to the Congressional Research Service, U.S. crude oil production on federal land during Obama’s presidency rose modestly from 1.9 million barrels per day in 2009 to 2.2 million barrels per day in 2017, a 16% increase. Over that same time span, the amount of oil produced on other land more than doubled, rising from 3.4 million barrels per day in 2009 to 7.1 million barrels per day in 2017, a 108% increase.

The oil boom is the result of improvement in technology and expert know-how that unlocked oil bound up in shale rock, using a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

“That technology is what set America’s shale revolution off,” Haubert said.

Oil production in North Dakota, for example, increased from 31.2 million barrels in 2004 to 466.4 million barrels in 2018, according to the state of North Dakota. That’s due to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

“The energy boom began during Obama’s term despite his efforts to stall and stop it,” said Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “President Obama was doing everything he could to stall and regulate energy with his ‘war on coal,’ and his efforts to limit oil and gas development on federal lands. The fracking boom happened on private land, which Obama could not stop.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.