You've probably heard the line: The United States holds 2 percent of the world's oil reserves but consumes 25 percent of the world's oil. It's boilerplate rhetoric for folks who'd like Americans to think the United States is both running out of its own oil and using too much of everyone else's. President Obama has used this misleading line in two major policy speeches recently (here and here), and others have followed suit.
Let's focus on the first point. The 2 percent stat lacks context and a false impression results. The figure refers to "proved" reserves - that is, an official classification of oil "that has been discovered (and) is economically and commercially viable," says API's Marcus Koblitz. The McKelvey Diagram below illustrates how narrow the definition is:
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murko... more »