Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Center for American Progress: Experts aint what they used to be.

This article from the Center for American Progress caught my eye this morning. Its author, Daniel J. Weiss, is an “expert on climate strategy. He has gained this prestigious title mainly through his many years of experience as a PR hack for environmental groups. The article argues that we don’t need more exploration, focusing on offshore exploration, because we just wind up exporting all of it anyways,

More offshore drilling in the Gulf Coast region, however, may not do much to increase our energy security. A CAP analysis (.xls) of Energy Information Administration data found that a large portion of the oil produced in the Gulf Coast region is actually exported to other nations, and this undoubtedly includes some of the offshore oil produced there.
After looking into this, there are several problems with Weiss’s argument.

First, there is no data that directly states what oil drilled from what region is exported. Weiss admits this, but manages to weasel out of it.

But the main problem with his argument is that no clarification is given as to what exactly is being exported.

The “oil” we export is not in the form crude, but rather is composed of diesel and other heavy fractional petroleum distillates. When crude is refined into its final products, the ratio of what is produced out is fixed (for the most part). A barrel of oil is 42 gallons, out of which refiners can squeeze about 20 gallons of gasoline and about 10 gallons of diesel. Refiners have become pretty good at modifying their process to maximize the most marketable products, but the chemistry and thermodynamics of refining do have limits as to how much they can maximize the more profitable distillates. And since we use far more gasoline than diesel, refiners are always left with excess diesel.

Weiss’s data that he used for his “analysis” (if that’s what you’d call it) states quite clearly: Total Crude Oil and Petroleum Products. Had Weiss bothered to look at the footnotes in his link, he would have also found this:

Exports of distillate fuel oil categories for sulfur greater than 15 ppm to 500 ppm and sulfur greater than 500 ppm to 2000 ppm may include distillate fuel oil with sulfur content 15 ppm and under.
Had Weiss then done some more digging (I know, hard work for an “expert”) he would have come across this set of data, also from the Energy Information Administration, breaking down the subcategories for exports of “Total Crude Oil and Petroleum Products”.

Even more digging (once again, hard work for an “expert”) he would have seen that what little raw crude oil the US exports goes exclusively to Canada. To further put this into perspective, in 2009 we exported a whopping 15.9 million barrels to Canada, or 0.82% of total US domestic oil production.

This leaves us with three possible conclusion: Weiss isn’t the expert he claims to be because he dint know how to look deeper into the numbers or he deliberately mislead to make his case against additional oil production.

Either way, its just another reason not to take the Center for American Progress seriously. And, naturally, “climate expert” Joe Romm bought off on this POS as well.