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Zakaria error tweets its way around the world

by a siegel Sun Mar 18th, 2012 at 12:48:58 PM EST

Fareed Zaharia was on with Anderson Cooper in what is an informative and interesting interview which CNN has entitled: Zakaria: Republicans are pandering on gas prices.  Zakaria lays out numerous ways in which Newt Gingrich's "$2.50 gallon of gas" and Republican attacks on President Obama re gas prices are at odds with reality.  (Although, Zakaria doesn't take the next step and address the Republican Agenda to Raise Prices At The Pump.)   Zakaria made a major error ... not in the interview but in his promotion of it.

Zakaria tweeted:

For the first time, the US is exporting rather than importing oil and it has made no difference to our gas prices.

The problem:  this tweet has multiple errors:

  1. The reality is, as of late last year, the United States is exporting more refined oil product (read diesel and gasoline, mainly) than it imports -- not crude oil.
    1. The United States is still importing close to 50 percent of its crude oil demand.
    2. As of 9 March 2012, the United States is a net importer of 8.7 million barrels per day (mbpd) even as it is a net exporter of 1.4 mbpd of refined product  according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  2. For neither refined product nor for overall crude oil is it true that this is "for the first time".  While it was decades ago, the United States was long a net exporter of both crude oil and refined product.
  3. And, a plausible case exists that the export of refined product contributes to higher US prices. (Note: this is not an argument that I see as especially relevant other than the fact that going ahead with Keystone XL pipeline WILL increase gas prices for many states significantly and thus increase overall average US prices at the pump.)


While Zakaria, with numerous people reacting to his error, send out a correction:

Correction: For the first time, the #US is exporting rather than importing Gas

Again, this is not "for the first time" but at least Zakaria corrected from crude oil to gas (though 'refined product' is more accurate than 'gas').

However, the issue to watch.  Zakaria only has, at the moment of typing this, 147,551 Twitter followers.  However, the error doesn't stop there. Zakaria's first tweet is, well, tweeting around the world with some 'loud' and prominent voices passing along his mistake.  Here are just two examples:


Of course, these are just two of Zakaria's nearly 150,000 followers. How many 1000s of other erroneous retweets will occur contributing a fundamental misunderstanding of America's energy situation?

On this issue, see:


See also:

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Not unrelated, Krugman's Op-Ed:Natural Born Drillers (March 15, 2012)
The irony here is that these claims come just as events are confirming what everyone who did the math already knew, namely, that U.S. energy policy has very little effect either on oil prices or on overall U.S. employment. For the truth is that we're already having a hydrocarbon boom, with U.S. oil and gas production rising and U.S. fuel imports dropping. If there were any truth to drill-here-drill-now, this boom should have yielded substantially lower gasoline prices and lots of new jobs. Predictably, however, it has done neither.

Why the hydrocarbon boom? It's all about the fracking. The combination of horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing of shale and other low-permeability rocks has opened up large reserves of oil and natural gas to production. As a result, U.S. oil production has risen significantly over the past three years, reversing a decline over decades, while natural gas production has exploded.

Given this expansion, it's hard to claim that excessive regulation has crippled energy production. Indeed, reporting in The Times makes it clear that U.S. policy has been seriously negligent -- that the environmental costs of fracking have been underplayed and ignored. But, in a way, that's the point. The reality is that far from being hobbled by eco-freaks, the energy industry has been given a largely free hand to expand domestic oil and gas production, never mind the environment.



There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 19th, 2012 at 09:02:48 AM EST
Now the paper of record has jumped on board:

U.S. Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence

Declining oil consumption and new energy production have brought the United States closer to a goal that has tantalized presidents since Richard Nixon.

... And not just here. Across the country, the oil and gas industry is vastly increasing production, reversing two decades of decline. Using new technology and spurred by rising oil prices since the mid-2000s, the industry is extracting millions of barrels more a week, from the deepest waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the prairies of North Dakota.

They cite 'optimists' who predict a return to 10mb/d for the US. Even if that were to come true, nowhere in the article do they mention that the US uses 18-19mb/d. The lack of elementary facts and math skills is breathtaking. These suckers don't know anything! Recycling the conventional wisdom that originated in skillful propaganda (100 years of gas!) is not journalism.
by epochepoque on Thu Mar 22nd, 2012 at 07:34:27 PM EST


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