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Did Oil Production Increase Under Obama?

One of the themes of President Obama’s energy tour this week is that oil production increased under his watch. Speaking in Boulder, Colorado, he claimed:

“We’re going to continue to produce oil and gas at a record pace,” he told one crowd.

The president first paid a visit to the largest solar plant of its kind in the country, in Boulder City, Nev., a city southeast of Las Vegas. The plant is home to nearly a million solar panels.

He blasted Republicans, who he says have favored oil companies over investments in alternative energy.

“The current members of the Flat Earth Society in Congress,” Mr. Obama said, “they would rather see us continue to provide $4 billion in tax subsidies, tax giveaways to the oil companies.”

Domestic oil production may have increased under Obama, but it has absolutely nothing to do with his policies.

As the Washington Free Beacon reports today, just 4 percent of the total increase in domestic oil production occurred on federal land:

The study, prepared by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), examined oil production on federal and non-federal land between 2007-2011. Approximately 96 percent of the total increase in domestic oil production occurred on non-federal land, CRS found.

Earlier this month, the Energy Information Administration reported that oil and natural gas production on federal land declined 40 percent over the past decade and 14 percent in 2011 alone.

So not only did almost all of the production take place on land beyond the Obama administration’s control, but it decreased significantly on land within his control.

It’s unclear whether Obama’s defense of his energy policies will be convincing to voters, or at least persuasive enough to mollify public anger over rising gas prices. But I wonder whether Obama’s doing himself any favors by referring to congressional Republicans in such antagonistic terms. Obviously Obama wasn’t going to be able to run on the post-partisan, civil discourse platform this time around. But he’s taking things to an extreme that seems politically unhelpful.

Acting frustrated by congressional Republicans, which Obama has done in the past, isn’t likely to turn off voters. But calling his political opponents “members of the Flat Earth Society” – has that even been funny since 1992? – just comes off as snarky and self-satisfied. He’s used it enough times in the last few days that it’s clearly intentional. But if Obama’s communication skills are as brilliant as his supporters believe, he should at least be able to explain his disagreement with Republicans without leaning on stale sarcastic insults as a crutch.