Obama unchained oil and gas exploration in the U.S.?

November 22, 2011

Anyone who votes Democrat regularly gets the “told you so” e-mails from Republicans making claims about how bad things are under President Obama.

One favorite, hoax meme is the claim that Obama hurt energy exploration in the U.S.  One friend e-mails me at least once a month with a claim that Obama has done something to frustrate drilling for oil in the U.S., usually accompanied with a political pitch that all we need to do is drill the hell out of Alaska, kill the caribou, and allow pollution of the Gulf of Mexico, and we’ll be independent of Middle Eastern oil forever.

Here’s the ugly secret they don’t want to tell you — heck, they probably don’t know:  Total oil rig count is way up under Obama from when he took office, increasing at a rate about double that of the previous Bush administration.

Under President Obama, oil and gas exploration in the U.S. is greatly increased.

Here’s the most recent rig count report from WTRG Economics, highlighting added:

North American Rotary Rig Counts

The U.S. rotary rig count was down 15 rigs at 2,001 for the week of November 18, 2011. It is 324 rigs (19.6%) higher than last year. 

The number of rotary rigs drilling for oil decreased 8 to 1,125. There are 394 more rigs targeting oil than last year. Rigs drilling for oil represent 56.2% percent of all drilling activity. 

Rigs directed toward natural gas were down 6 at 871. The number of rigs currently drilling for gas is 65 lower than last year’s level of 936.

Year-over-year oil exploration in the U.S. is up 53.9 percent. Gas exploration is down 6.9 percent. The weekly average of crude oil spot prices is 20.8 percent higher than last year and natural gas spot prices are 16.8 percent lower.

Tuesday a week ago I joined the high school economics teachers dining at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, the annual “Night at the Fed” event.  The bank brought in Keith Phillips, a Senior Economist and Advisor from the San Antonio Branch to talk about “Where Will Your Students Find Jobs?”

One of his charts showed drill rig counts since 2000, on a slide, “Drilling Rig Count has Surged to High Levels.”  Among other things, that partly explains why Texas was not so severely hit with the recession as the rest of the nation (though jobless counts in the past couple of months suggest Texas may catch up).

Sitting at the front table I could not help but be impressed with the rig count line.  In 2000, when Bush came to office, there were about 300 active drilling rigs in the country, in oil and gas.  Over seven years that count rose to about 1,000, then plunged in Bush’s last year in the economic downturn.

Obama came into office with a drill rig count just slightly higher than Bush had two terms previously.  In three years, drill rig counts have climbed to near the height of the Bush administration’s best year, just under 1,000 (if I’m reading the chart correctly — and the piece above suggests I am).

Here’s the chart from Baker-Hughes — showing about the same rig count Dr. Phillips showed:

Baker-Hughes Drill Rig Count, November 2011 (back to 2000)

Baker-Hughes Drill Rig Count, November 2011 (back to 2000) - click the image to go to WTRG Economics site and current chart

Here’s a more colorful, more clear version from EnergyDigger.com:

Drill Rig Count history from Energy Digger.com, November 18, 2011

Drill Rig Count history from Energy Digger.com, November 18, 2011

In other words, drill rigs have increased in the three years of the Obama administration at about double the rate of increase of the Bush administration.

When does Obama get credit for the increase in oil and gas exploration in the U.S. in his administration?

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