Has President Obama increased drilling? We FuelFact it

FuelFact is a new project of FuelFix.com. In the run up to the 2012 presidential election, there is a lot of focus on high gasoline prices. We’ll be evaluating these statements, consulting with experts and rating their accuracy.

Inspired by sites like PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org, our staff will judge the statements on our “truthiness” gasoline gauge:

  • Full: The statement is accurate.
  • Three-quarters Full: The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
  • Half-Full: The statement is partially accurate but omits important details or takes facts out of context.
  • Quarter-Full: The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts.
  • Empty: The statement is not accurate.

SUMMARY

President Barack Obama has taken a lot of heat in recent weeks over gasoline prices from the public, members of his own party and Republicans. Critics have called for Obama to increase drilling, hoping the increased domestic supply could drop prices.

Obama fought back against the critics last week during a speech in Maryland about his energy policy.

“First of all, we are drilling,” he said. “Under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That’s a fact. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high. I want everybody to listen to that — we have more oil rigs operating now than ever.”

So is it true or is he fudging his numbers?

And if they are correct, is he the reason for the rise over the past eight years?

ANALYSIS

During President Obama’s administration, crude oil production has risen to levels not seen since May 2002, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The United States produced more than 182 million barrels of crude oil in December in 2011, the most recent available statistics with the agency. The number is a bit lower than the 183 million barrels produced in May 2002.

Robert Rapier at the ConsumerEnergyReport.com produced a very nice graphic about the trend in oil production since Obama took office. You can see how oil production has risen under the Obama administration, but analysts have said the oil production rose because of projects approved prior to Obama taking office.

So oil production has risen under Obama, but it isn’t because of his policies, analysts said.

(Photo: Robert Rapier, ConsumerEnergyReport.com)

The industry has been critical of Obama’s comment on oil production, because they claim he is taking credit for something that he isn’t responsible for.

Obama has also claimed more rigs are drilling than ever before.

That fact is a little bit more difficult to check, because it’s unclear whether Obama is talking about a weekly, monthly or yearly number.

According to data from Rigdata.com and Baker Hughes, there are around 2,000 active drilling rigs in the United States right now. The number of rig, which counts oil and natural gas rigs, is more than 250 over the same time last year, but it well off the pace of December 1981, according to Baker Hughes.

In that year, there were 4,530 active drilling rigs in the U.S. during that year.

RigData.com, an independent site that counts rigs, said more than 2,500 rigs were drilling in the U.S. prior to Obama taking office. According to historical statistics, the average number of U.S. rigs in 1997 was around 2,400.

You’ll have to be a judge on that one.

RATING

Oil production has risen during the Obama administration, but analysts don’t give Obama the credit for the increase over the past three years.  Our FuelFact “truthiness” rating: According to analysts, this claim is hitting half tank on the facts.

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