Oops: CNN Contributor Gets Oil Estimate Wrong By 19 Billion Barrels

     What’s 19 billion barrels of oil between friends?


     CNNMoney.com writer Steve Hargreaves underestimated the amount of oil available in currently untapped offshore sites by 19 billion barrels during a CNN “Your $$$$$” interview August 16.


     "Your $$$$$" co-host Christine Romans asked if drilling for more oil would “solve the problem.” Hargreaves said it wouldn’t solve the problem, according to “most experts.”


     “Most experts say, no. Most experts say there’s not really that much oil there,” Hargreaves said. “You’re talking about maybe a million barrels offshore, maybe a million barrels in Alaska.”


     Hargreaves probably meant “over one million barrels a day,” a low-ball estimate he has cited in one of his CNNMoney.com articles.


     But the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) estimated areas currently off-limits – the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, parts of offshore Alaska, and the eastern Gulf of Mexico – put the amount of energy in these off-limits areas at 19.1 billion barrels of oil and 83.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s approximately 30 years’ worth of imports from Saudi Arabia and enough natural gas to power America’s homes for 17 years, according to Ben Lieberman of the Heritage Foundation.


     CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi jokingly opened the discussion with the hyperbolic claim that “we can solve all of that that; we can solve the economic problems of this country if they just let us drill for more oil offshore.”


     But Velshi also questioned a common anti-drilling talking point: that new oil wouldn’t come online for 10 years and wouldn’t affect the price of gasoline in the short term.


     “I think there’s oil right underneath us at $500 a barrel,” Velshi added. “There’s a lot of oil offshore but some of it’s very expensive to get at. But here is the thing: Barack Obama says 7 to 10 years to get that first incremental drop of oil out of the ground. John McCain, we’ve heard a number of speeches where he said he’s spoken to oil companies and they say inside of a year they can start getting that oil.”


     Hargreaves responded by admitting that “you could get some oil right away” particularly from the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but other areas could take about five years.


     A Gallup poll released in June showed 57 percent of Americans are in favor of expanded offshore drilling.


     “This poll result suggests that President Bush's proposals this week to end bans on drilling for oil in areas held as off-limits and for opening up leases for oil shale production in federal lands may be generally in sync with majority American public opinion,” Frank Newport wrote for the Gallup Web site.