“With only 2% of the world’s oil reserves, we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices,” President Barack Obama said in his weekly address March 10. “Not when we consume 20% of the world’s oil.”
The claim is, if not blatantly false, at best grossly misleading. If the President didn’t know this, some advisors should be dismissed. If he did, he needs to accept the blame and formally correct it.
… the figure Obama uses—proved oil reserves—vastly undercounts how much oil the U.S. actually contains. In fact, far from being oil-poor, the country is awash in vast quantities—enough to meet all the country’s oil needs for hundreds of years.
The U.S. has 22.3 billion barrels of proved reserves, a little less than 2% of the entire world’s proved reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. But as the EIA explains, proved reserves “are a small subset of recoverable resources,” because they only count oil that companies are currently drilling for in existing fields.
How much recoverable oil does the U.S. have in addition to the 22.3 billion Obama had in mind? Start with the Green River Formation in Wyoming: 1.4 trillion barrels—sixty-two times as much as Obama counts.
After Green River, it’s almost embarrassing to count other sources: 86 billion on the outer continental shelf; 24 billion in the lower 48; 2 billion on Alaska’s north slope; 19 billion in Utah tar sands; 12 billion in ANWR. Then add in oil shale: 800 billion just in Wyoming and neighboring states. As IBD sums it up: “When you include oil shale, the U.S. has 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil, according to the Institute for Energy Research, enough to meet all U.S. oil needs for about the next 200 years, without any imports.”
These estimates are almost sure to rise over time—to anywhere from three or four to twenty or twenty-five times as much. Those are the ranges of error on past official estimates of recoverable oil. Here is what Robert Bradley Jr. calculated back in 2000 for the carbon-based energies:
Proved oil reserves today are estimated to be fifteen times greater than the original 1948 estimate despite interim production of eleven times this amount. World natural gas reserves in the last thirty years have increased almost five-fold despite interim production that has been 80 percent above the 1967 estimate. World coal reserves today are estimated to be over four times the amount calculated nearly a half-century ago. 
So, which is it, Mr. President? Did you know these facts? Or did your advisors mislead you? One way or the other, the outcome was that you misled the American people—not slightly, but grossly.
One of Obama’s Democratic predecessors, Harry Truman, famously kept a sign on his desk in the Oval Office: “The buck stops here.”
Misinformed, or misinforming, either way, Mr. Obama is responsible. If he won’t embrace that responsibility, the American people should impose it on him.
 Bradley, Julian Simon and the Triumph of Energy Sustainability (Washington: American Legislative Exchange Council, 2000), p. 31.