The Society for Progressive Alchemy

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I ran across Mark Steyn’s piece at NRO after I posted The Dark Age Alchemists and as always, he is spot on. He is writing about Obama’s little “Flat Earth Society” speech yesterday:

Seventy-five years on, the president revived it to tap dance around his rising gas prices and falling approval numbers. Delivering his big speech on energy at Prince George’s Community College, he insisted the American economy will be going gangbusters again just as soon as we start running it on algae and windmills. He noted that, as with Wilbur and his brother, there were those inclined to titter:

Let me tell you something. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail — [Laughter] — they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. [Laughter.] They would not have believed that the world was round. [Applause.] We’ve heard these folks in the past. They probably would have agreed with one of the pioneers of the radio who said, “Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” [Laughter.] One of Henry Ford’s advisers was quoted as saying, “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a fad.” [Laughter.]

The crowd loved it. But President Algy Solyndra wasn’t done:

There always have been folks who are the naysayers and don’t believe in the future, and don’t believe in trying to do things differently. One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone, “It’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?” [Laughter.] That’s why he’s not on Mount Rushmore — [laughter and applause] — because he’s looking backwards. He’s not looking forwards. [Applause.] He’s explaining why we can’t do something, instead of why we can do something.

So let’s see. The president sneers at the ignorance of 15th-century Spaniards, when in fact he is the one entirely ignorant of them. A man who has enjoyed a million dollars of elite education yet has never created a dime of wealth in his life sneers at a crippled farm boy with an eighth-grade schooling who establishes a successful business and introduces electrical distribution across Michigan all the way up to Sault Ste. Marie. A man who sneers at one of the pioneering women in broadcasting, a lady who brought the voices of T. S. Eliot, G. K. Chesterton, and others into the farthest-flung classrooms and would surely have rejected Obama’s own dismal speech as being too obviously reliant on “Half-a-Dozen Surefire Cheap Cracks for Lazy Public Speakers.” A man whose own budget officials predict the collapse of the entire U.S. economy by 2027 sneers at a solvent predecessor for being insufficiently “forward-looking.”

A great nation needs successful self-made businessmen like George Peck, and purveyors of scholarly excellence like Mary Somerville. It’s not clear why it needs a smug over-credentialed President Solyndra to recycle Crowd-Pleasing for Dummies as a keynote address.

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, they all laughed at Edison . . . How does that song continue? “They laughed at me . . . ”

At Prince George’s Community College they didn’t. But history will, and they will laugh at us for ever taking him seriously.

So nothing that Obama said was true or even close to being in context – yet the other members of the Society for Progressive Alchemy lapped it up like so much Wagyu beef or Bison Wellington, pairing the pastry case created for the British soldier and statesman the Duke of Wellington with American buffalo tenderloin from North Dakota, instead of beef. Red wine reduction, French beans, cipollini onion.

Jazz Shaw at Hot Air notes another fable from the Alchemists:

The President has been traveling on Campaign Tourapalooza 2012 this month and seeking to explain rising oil and gas prices. One of his favorite tag lines has been to say that you “can’t just drill your way to lower gas prices.” (And he’s partly correct there, but more on that later.) But he’s also tossing out another figure when he makes these remarks.

“With only 2% of the world’s oil reserves, we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices,” he said. “Not when we consume 20% of the world’s oil.”

So is that actually true? Are we an oil barren nation? As John Merline points out at Investors Business Daily, it’s not even close to being accurate unless you’re really picking and choosing your terms. This is because the figure that Barack Obama is quoting relies on estimates of proved reserves.

But the figure Obama uses — proved oil reserves — vastly undercounts how much oil the U.S. actually contains. In fact, far from being oil-poor, the country is awash in vast quantities — enough to meet all the country’s oil needs for hundreds of years.

The U.S. has 22.3 billion barrels of proved reserves, a little less than 2% of the entire world’s proved reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. But as the EIA explains, proved reserves “are a small subset of recoverable resources,” because they only count oil that companies are currently drilling for in existing fields.

When you look at the whole picture, it turns out that there are vast supplies of oil in the U.S., according to various government reports.

Proved reserves is a valuable number to keep track of, no doubt. It gives you a good snapshot of the amount of oil you’re currently tapping into, and that allows you to develop solid estimates of what’s going to be entering the pipeline each season. But by the same token, it’s not any sort of reflection of what your total assets are. That’s like saying that Bill Gates only has $20K of liquid cash in his primary checking account this month so he must be close to filing for bankruptcy. Here’s a more complete picture for you:

Sorry for repeating the “alchemy” thing but it fits and I like it. Like Reagan famously said:

Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so.

Thanks also to a great friend of this blog, Vikram Roy for putting alchemy back on my mental radar! Go buy his play…

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