Obama: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Scott wrote here about the canard that women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, a claim that Barack Obama repeated in his State of the Union speech. As Scott explained, this statistic has been demonstrated to be false many times. Yesterday at InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds wrote:

I GUESS HE FIGURES WOMEN ARE LOUSY AT MATH: Obama Must Know That 77-cent Figure Is Bogus, So Why Does He Keep Repeating It? “What is wrong and embarrassing is the President of the United States reciting a massively discredited factoid.”

I agree that Obama must know the 77 cents claim is wrong; can we start referring to it as “Obama’s 22 words”?

This incident reminded me of another instance of Obama’s repeatedly citing a discredited statistic. Remember when he was trying to plug “green” energy and suppress the production of fossil fuels? Obama repeated, over and over, the claim that the U.S. can’t drill itself to energy sufficiency because we use 25% of the world’s energy and hove only 2% of the world’s petroleum reserves. As, for example, in this speech in March 2011:

I give out this statistic all the time, and forgive me for repeating it again: America holds about 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. What that means is, is that even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every single one of the reserves that we possess — offshore and onshore — it still wouldn’t be enough to meet our long-term needs. We consume about 25 percent of the world’s oil. We only have 2 percent of the reserves. Even if we doubled U.S. oil production, we’re still really short.

This drove me crazy, and I explained several times why these numbers are wrong, e.g. at the link above and here. Briefly, “reserves” doesn’t mean what Obama’s listeners thought it meant. In the U.S. (unlike, say, Saudi Arabia), “reserves” does not mean how much oil we have in the ground. Rather, it is a technical term defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission. “Reserves” includes only the oil in the ground that can be accessed economically at current prices and with current technology, and that it is legal to access under current law. Thus ANWR, to take one of many examples, was never included in U.S. “reserves.” Obama’s repeated claim was a classic instance of lying with statistics.

As with 77 cents on the dollar, I am confident that Obama knew that the line he was selling was false, and he was deliberately misleading his audience. I say this not because I have high regard for his intellect or his knowledge of energy, but because he certainly has in his administration many employees who know the basics about oil and gas. They would not have allowed him to repeat his 2% lie, over and over, accidentally.

But Obama no longer uses the line about the 2% and the 25%–not since it became apparent that his administration is being saved by fracking. Over the last year, considerable publicity has been accorded to the fact that the U.S. has more fossil fuel reserves than any other country. Today, if Obama repeated his 2% lie he wouldn’t get away with it; plus, he wants to take credit for increased energy production. So the 2%/25% falsehood has gone down the memory hole. Reporters oblige Obama by never reminding him of what once was the cornerstone of his administration’s energy policy.

Lying with statistics: it is a form of deception at which Barack Obama excels.

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