Energy Expertise

Today, the person who “knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America” let slip some pearls of wisdom:

“Of course, it’s a fungible commodity and they don’t flag, you know, the molecules, where it’s going and where it’s not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It’s got to flow into our domestic markets first.”

I’m not sure I fully grasp that, though I am relieved to know that they, whoever they are, don’t have to sit around flagging individual molecules all day long. I think, despite her saying that Congress is “not going to allow the export bans”, that she is actually recommending such a ban. At any rate, what she says makes a lot more sense on the assumption that either the ‘not’ or the ‘bans’ was a slip than it does on the assumption that she thought that lifting nonexistent export bans would keep our oil here at home.

It seems pretty clear to me that Sarah Palin has no idea at all what she’s talking about here. But let’s pretend this is a serious statement, and consider it seriously. Who do we presently export oil to? Well: in 2007, the two main recipients of our oil were Mexico and Canada, who between them received some 170,716,000 barrels of what the Energy Information Administration calls “petroleum and products.” That’s nearly a third of our exports. But guess what? When you look at the analogous table of imports, who turns up in first and second place? Canada and Mexico again! They sold us 1,455,280,000 barrels between them in 2007, or about eight and a half times as much as we sold them. If you check crude oil alone, it turns out that all our exports in 2007 went to Canada, which was also our number one supplier, selling us nearly seventy times as much crude oil as we sold the Canadians.

Do you think that they would keep on selling us all that oil if we unilaterally stopped selling oil to them? Maybe they would, and maybe they wouldn’t. Do you think Sarah Palin knows the answer? I hope so. It would be pretty strange for the nation’s foremost expert on energy to come out in favor of an embargo without knowing whether or not it would cost us nearly 1.3 billion barrels of “petroleum and products” a day year (oops), including about 19% of our total crude oil imports. Annoying our neighbors so much that they cut off our oil supplies would, I suppose, be one way of helping us achieve energy independence, but it doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea.

Call me cynical, though: I don’t think Sarah Palin had any idea what she was talking about, any more than I think John McCain had any idea what he was talking about when he said she “knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America”. Because if she does, we’re in much deeper trouble than I had imagined.

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