Feb 24, 2023

The Sacramento Bee recently called a TV ad supporting local oil production “misleading” yet did not refute any of the data used.

The ad – produced by Californians for Energy Independence – states:

“Recently there has been a lot of debate about California’s energy policies. Here are some facts to consider.

FACT: California has shut down about 25% of local oil production in the last four years. FACT: If we aren’t producing the oil we need locally, it has to come from somewhere else. FACT: California is now forced to import 75% of the oil we use, mostly from foreign countries.

The result? An unstable energy supply, and even higher gas prices for working families.”

The Bee admitted that the ad is “accurate” based on data from the California Energy Commission and the U.S. Energy Information Administration yet still took issue with the idea that heavy dependence on foreign oil imports raises gas prices for consumers.

Citing zero facts, the newspaper dismisses California’s in-state oil production as “a small segment of the total global market” that has “little to no effect” on prices at the pump.

But recent experience in global oil markets undercuts the Bee’s dismissal. As gas prices spiked nationwide last year due to a global supply crunch, President Biden ordered the release of 180 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). As the SPR supply entered the global market over a six month period, prices at the pump moderated.

As the CEI ad states, Governor Newsom’s policies have resulted in a 25% reduction in oil production in California – leading to a cumulative loss of nearly 86 million barrels of oil during his administration, or almost half of the emergency stockpile releases ordered by President Biden.

If Biden’s SPR releases helped bring gas prices down, then tens of millions of barrels of California production lost to bad energy policies could help do the same.

As Biden said at a White House event on gas prices last year:

“The bottom line is: If we want lower gas prices, we need to have more oil supply right now.”

Furthermore, the Bee’s analysis fails to see the bigger picture, ignoring several follow-on impacts should California move toward complete reliance on foreign oil imports. 

For instance, an economic analysis released by the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California in 2021 found that gas prices would increase $0.70 per gallon due to the billions refineries would be forced to spend to reconfigure their operations for foreign crude, as well as an additional $1 to $2 per gallon to fund necessary port expansions to account for the increased tanker traffic.

In addition, complete reliance on foreign oil imports would also create costs and vulnerabilities related to energy security. Shutting down local production forfeits more control over the price of oil to OPEC and other foreign producers who have demonstrated little interest in keeping gas prices affordable for Americans.

As the New York Times reported in late 2021:

“In the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, government-owned energy companies are increasing oil and natural gas production as U.S. and European companies pare supply … This massive shift could make America more dependent on OPEC, authoritarian leaders, and politically unstable countries.”

By failing to refute any of the data used and failing to see the bigger picture on local production and global oil markets, the Bee’s fact check falls short.

Some might even call it misleading.