On recent campaign stops, President Obama has taken to summing up
America's oil supply problem with the following statistic: We use 20
percent of the world's production, but only have 2 percent of its
reserves. Then this past week, the president got pushback from Republicans, who are citing a new government study to allege we have closer to 26 percent of the world's supply.
Who's right? Neither, really. Obama is talking about oil we know is there. Republicans are talking about oil we think is there.
The president likes to refer to our so-called "proven" reserves -- oil that can be recovered with relative certainty given today's economic, technological, and regulatory constraints. It's oil that companies have already discovered, and that they can drill up profitably without breaking the law.