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CNN’s celebratory misinformation about America’s energy situation

December 15th, 2011 · 2 Comments

The United States is now a net exporter of petroleum products.  Simply put, the United States exports more post refinery products than it imports. (E.g., it exports more diesel and gasoline, for example, than imported of these types of products.) This is real news, after all this reverses a net import refinery product balance of trade that went negative back in the 1940s.  However, let’s keep perspective.  As Kevin Drum highlighted

as the EIA chart below shows, when you add up both crude oil and refined products, the United States continues to import a net of 9.4 million barrels per day. That’s 3.4 billion barrels per year.

You’d only know this if you read the Journal article pretty carefully (it’s a single sentence in the 7th paragraph) but the United States is still a giant black hole sucking in energy from around the world. What’s more, that dynamic is not going to change anytime soon. Sorry to be such a killjoy.

Very simply, at $100 per barrel, the current import level translates to $340 billion in crude oil imports contributing to the import/export trade deficit per year. 

As Kevin Drum emphasizes, the Wall Street Journal report buried the larger context well within the story even as it blared ’news to confuse’ the average person who might distinguish between fuel products and total crude oil.  This sort of misleading ‘blaring headline’ vs buried statement of the larger truth isn’t, sadly, isolated to the Wall Street Journal.  

From CNN website laying out their stories:   

U.S. on track to be net exporter of oil updated Thur December 1, 2011

Despite its reputation, the U.S. is on track to export more oil than it imports. CNN’s Alison Kosik reports.

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2011/12/01/nr-us-net-exporter-of-oil-mpg.cnn

Look at that title:  “U.S. on track to be net exporter of oil.”  Geez, shut up all you people (including every President since Richard Nixon through Barack Obama) who talk about the need to reduce oil imports since, after all, we’re a “net exporter of oil”. 

The opening to this report continues this emphasis:

I’m going to have to say this twice because this makes us go ‘what …’  The U.S.  is on track to hit a new milestone: exporting more oil than we take in … exporting more oil than we take in.  It’s stunning.


The announcer than turns this over to reporter Alison Kosik who begins “it does kinda make you take a double-take”.  Within the body of the discussion, the Alison Kosik does discuss that being a net exporter of fuels does not make the United States suddenly a net exporter of oil.  Within the body of discussion with the banner below Kosik, as she speaks, reading “U.S. could become net oil exporter”.

This is a situation where CNN could claim that they provided factual information even as the blaring context misinforms about a critically important issue.

Tags: Energy · oil · truthiness

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