Newt is incredibly wrong about oil

  • Published on November 29th, 2011

newt gingrich, wrong about oilHow wrong is Newt Gingrich about energy?

In last week’s Republican debate #1,237, he called for a national energy program on the scale of World War II that would boost our energy output, driving down the price of gasoline and saving our economy.

There’s just one problem: The actual experts on energy, from the The Oil Drum website to the Energy Policy Initiative, take him apart as either being ignorant or mendacious. (That last word is a fancy way of saying lying.)

Here’s Newt:

You said earlier that it would take too long to open up American oil. We defeated Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan in three years and eight months because we thought we were serious.

If we were serious, we would open up enough oil fields in the next year that the price of oil worldwide would collapse. Now, that’s what we would do if we were a serious country. If we were seriouse…

Also, too:

…we ought to have a massive all-sources energy program in the United States designed to, once again, create a surplus of energy here, so we could say to the Europeans pretty cheerfully, that all the various sources of oil we have in the United States, we could literally replace the Iranian oil.

Now that’s how we won World War II.

What’s the verdict from our panel of experts? In the reality-based community, the verdict is: No, not so much.

The main Oil Drum post was put up by aeberman, who runs the numbers, and the don’t look kind to Newt:

The U.S. would have to increase field production by more than double current production to become oil independent by increasing domestic production to 14.8 Mbopd. Even peak production in 1970 of 10,000 bopd would only meet 68% of current crude oil consumption. To bring about a collapse in world oil prices, as Mr. Gingrich suggests, would mean increasing U.S. production by substantially more than this.

Maximum daily production from Prudhoe Bay Field, the largest in the United States, was 2.0 million bopd in 1988. Mr. Gingrich suggests that we can find more than six additional Prudhoe Bay-sized fields in one year. Prudhoe Bay was discovered in 1968, did not begin production for 11 years, and did not reach peak production until 20 years after its discovery. But Mr. Gingrich thinks that there are many Prudhoe Bay fields waiting to be found that can be at explored, developed and brought to peak production in one year.

So with the facts not on his side, where does that place the verdict on Newt himself?

Aeberman is relatively kind, taking the position that either Newt doesn’t know how wrong he is (in which case his ignorance rivals that of Rick Perry and Herman Cain), or else… ” He knows the reality of oil supply and is misleading to the American people in order to gain support for a positive ‘can do’ message”.

Later, in the comments, he goes a little deeper:

I spent a day on Capitol Hill a few weeks ago and met with 10 different legislators’ top energy staffers. We were delivering a Peak Oil message and got zero push-back from anyone. In fact, all had reached similar conclusions long before our arrival. Their feedback to us was to give them some way to deliver the message of impending scarcity that would not guarantee their defeat in the next election. We can’t provide that…

Gingrich and Bachmann get the same advice that those we visited get (it was a mix of Democrats and Republicans that we visited)…  I have to believe, based on this recent experience, that most of the candidates understand on some level that the U.S. will never be energy independent in the next few decades, at least.

Last month, Newt might have been able to get away with stuff like this, with his candidacy basically dead in the water (see: Newt screwed the pooch). But now that he’s riding high in the polls as the anti-Romney du jour, and is being taken seriously once again as a candidate, he’s going to find a lot more scrutiny.

Other Oil Drum commenters aren’t pulling their punches:

Commenter Hot Air:

It sounds like he is proposing to use the WWII method.

A combination of massive taxes and massive borrowings used to fund massive government expenditure.

Someone should ask him whether he really is as “liberal” as these policies make him appear to be.

Commenter sldulin:

I don’t think the man is being cynical, but it is high time someone called b.s. on his reputation as any kind of ‘historian’.

Commenter Ghung:

Despite a ‘serious’, massive effort during WWII, from 1941 through 1944, the US only managed to increase crude production from184 million tons to 223 million tons, about 21%, and rationing was mandated. Perhaps Gingrich should pay attention to his history.

Commenter Darwinian:

Newt is just playing to his constituents. The vast majority or right wing conservatives believe that we could flood the world with oil if we only allowed the oil companies to drill anywhere they desired. They all believed Michele Bachmann when she said if she were elected we would see $2.00 oil. Bachmann believed what she was saying and Newt believed what he said.

You cannot educate a right wing conservative on natural resources because that is their world view that natural resources are overly abundant. World views are not subject to revision.

Commenter HARM:

…very likely that most right-wing pols are privately aware of the reality of Peak Oil and its implications, but recognize that it’s irrelevant to the only goals that matters to them: first getting elected and then holding onto power and wealth. In the U.S. telling unhappy truths to one’s constituents is an excellent way to be marginalized, defeated, and driven into political obscurity. On the other hand, telling our willfully ignorant and superstitious voting majority what they want to hear (optimistic lies about perpetuating “Our Way of Life”) is an excellent way to get elected and to stay in Wall Street’s good graces.

Commenter WastedEnergy:

“… it’s an article of faith in the GOP that the only thing holding us back from “energy independence” and even returning to net exporter status is job-killing environmental regulations, not the fact that we’ve already produced all of our good oil and gas fields. Limits of physical reserves, infrastructure, available labor force, capital expenses, et cetera are no problem if your energy policy is based on faith-based initiatives.”

Finally, check out what  Lisa Margonelli, the director of the Energy Policy Initiative at New America Foundation, has to say: Drill Baby Drill is a lie (How Big Oil and the Big Banks are sucking us dry)

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More on Newt and the GOP field:

More on our dysfunctional political system

(Newt caricature by DonkeyHotey)

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.