Is “Junk Science” telling the truth?

I read this article on today from “Junk Science” publisher Steven Milloy.  The article is titled “Is T. Boone Pickens ‘Swiftboating’ America?” and basically says that Pickens is lying and that he has his facts wrong.

After I did a bit of research it appears that Junk Science really IS junk science – at least this article – because Milloy just plain has his facts wrong.

For example, in response to Pickens’ claim that we import nearly 70% of our oil, Milloy states Aside from the fact that the Department of Energy (DOE) puts the import figure at a more moderate 58 percent, Pickens gives the impression that imported oil is scary because it all comes from the unstable Mideast.

What are the facts?  Although both numbers are too high for my comfort, there’s a big difference between “nearly 70%” and 58%.  Here are the actual numbers from the DOE site.  In April (the latest month for which numbers are available, the US imported 397.556 million barrels of oil, and produced 154.867 million barrels of oil.

These numbers are straight from the DOE, you can verify them by clicking the links above.  Mr. Milloy doesn’t give his source, other than to say “the Department of Energy”.

I’ll do the math for Mr. Milloy.  397.556 plus 154.867 equals 552.423 million barrels of oil total.  That’s the total amount the US produced and imported in April 2008.

To find the percentage that imports make of the total, you divide the imports (397.556) by the total (552.423).  In my calculator it equals .7196, which I’ll round of to .72, which equals 72%.

So, who is telling the truth about the percentage of oil we import, Mr. Pickens – who said “nearly 70%” – or Junk Science publisher Mr. Milloy – who said 58%?

Round one goes to Mr. Pickens.

Mr. Milloy goes on to say Only 16 percent of our imported oil comes from the Persian Gulf — barely up from 13.6 percent in 1973, according to the DOE. Once again he gives his source as the DOE, but doesn’t provide the data to back up his statement.  But again this is easy to check.

Using the same DOE chart for total imports as above,  we find that the US imported 69.679 million barrels of oil from the Persion Gulf in April.   Divide that number by the total amount imported to get the percentage.  It’s 17.5%, which is actually down from the percentage in March, which was over 20%.

Once again Milloy is just plain wrong.  He either has outdated information, or he can’t do basic math, or both.  It really doesn’t matter because he’s still wrong.

Mr. Milloy’s next statement Imports from OPEC countries are actually down — from 47.8 percent in 1973 to 44.5 percent in 2007. is also easily checked using the same DOE source data, but using the annual view.  In 2007 the US imported 4,905.234 million barrels, of which 2,183.964 million came from OPEC countries.  Do the math and you get 44.5%.

Hey, he got this one right!  (Mr. Pickens never said anything about this – I included it simply to be fair to Mr. Milloy.)

So what’s the final score?  Of the independently verifiable numbers on oil imports that Mr. Milloy uses, he’s just flat wrong on two of the three.

Mr. Milloy gives lots of other oil numbers in his article, numbers like the “hundreds of billions of barrels of oil in the form of oil tar sands and oil shale in North America, not to mention the more than one hundred billion barrels of oil in the outer continental shelf of the U.S. and on public lands like the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve (ANWR)” but these are estimates and not verifiable.

Besides, Mr. Pickens never claimed that we are running out of oil – he simply said “The simple truth is that cheap and easy oil is gone.”  And I don’t know of anyone who has claimed that producing oil from tar sands, oil shale, the outer continental shelf, or places like ANWR is either cheap or easy.

Mr. Pickens has said that we are at or approaching “peak oil” which is a totally different subject – but I happen to agree with him.  I wrote about it a few months ago.

Anyway, it appears the Junk Science publisher Steven Milloy needs to do some fact checking of his own before he starts saying that other people have their facts wrong.  It appears that he really is an expert on junk science, because he’s publishing plenty of it.  Besides, did he really think that Mr. Pickens would get his facts wrong about oil?


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