"We consume 20 percent of the world's oil but only have 2 percent of the world's proven reserves" intones the exalted leader. He then pauses, puts his nose in the air like an Irish setter and waits for the assembled dolts to applaud. As usual his receptive and hand picked audience applauds as if he had just discovered that E=mc2. I argue that President Obama is lying because he has the advisors to tell him that his cherry picking of the term "proven reserves" does not reflect a fraction of the oil this country can produce. It may surprise readers to learn that the proven reserve number of about 20 billion barrels has remained unchanged their entire lives.
Proven reserves only increased by 700 million barrels from 1944 to 2010 but in that time the country produced 167 billion barrels of oil. How can this be? It's a matter of definition. Reserves are not proven until drilling begins. Proven reserves remain relatively low because oil companies don't explore for oil for the sport of it. When an oil field begins to produce oil proven reserves are estimated and frequently revised upward of by a factor of twenty or more. Proven oil reserves are not stagnant. They are continually changing as companies explore, find and produce oil. Declaring that the U.S. has only 2% of the world’s oil is akin to saying that the only gasoline we will have is that which is in our tanks. The president should know better, and if he does not, his Secretaries of Energy and Interior should tell him.