Politics

Obama flunks science, history test in energy speech

President Barack Obama’s teleprompter and his bombast carried him over the line from accurate-yet-misleading into scientifically-incredible-and-misleading during his energy speech Thursday.

“America uses more than 20 percent of the world’s oil [and] if we drilled every square inch of this country — so we went to your house and we went to the National Mall and we put up those rigs everywhere — we’d still have only 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves,” he declared to an audience of students.

“I help out Sasha occasionally with her math homework and I know that if you’ve got 2 and you’ve got 20, there’s a gap,” he added, prompting laughter, applause and roared approval from the audience at Maryland’s Prince George’s Community College.

The nation does only have 2 percent of the world’s “proven resources” of oil, according to government data and industry officials.

But the nation also has much sophisticated scientific data showing that the United States has enormous quantities of “technically recoverable [oil] resources” amounting to roughly 20 percent of the world’s reserves.

“U.S. proved reserves of oil total 19.1 billion barrels…. [and] technically recoverable oil in the United States is 145.5 billion barrels,” according to a Nov. 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service that relied on data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

“The idea that we don’t have much oil to develop in the United States is silly and is intentionally misleading,” said Kyle Isakower, vice-president of regulatory and economic policy at the American Petroleum Institute.

Politically, the speech was intended to redirect the public’s growing willingness to blame Obama for high gas prices.

Obama’s campaign-trail speech argued that his green-tech spending projects could move the nation into a future post-oil era where gas price-spikes would be minimized.

But in his rush to tag the GOP as out-of-date Obama also flubbed basic history.

For example, he claimed that President Rutherford Hayes “said about the telephone, ‘It’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?’”

The error in those 16 words was highlighted by Talking Points Memo, which quoted Nan Card, a curator at Ohio’s Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center.

Hayes “really was the opposite… He had the first telephone in the White House,” she told TPM. “He also had the first typewriter in the White House… Photographing people who came to the White House and visited at dinners and receptions was also very important to him,” she said.

TPM also tagged Obama’s claim that his critics would “have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society” in 1492 when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Instead, TPM cited a 1995 book by famed Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould which declared “there never was a period of ‘flat earth darkness’ among scholars… all major medieval scholars accepted the earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.”

Obama’s historical errors were part of the speech and were presumably displayed on his teleprompter.

But his own bombast prompted his erroneous claim about the nation’s unused oil bounty.