NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 4, 2010

Liberal commentator Bill Maher was clearly out of his league Sunday at a roundtable discussion on ABC's "This Week."  He made the absurd claim that Brazil "got off oil 30 years ago," only to be corrected by a much more knowledgeable George Will, a conservative newspaper columnist for the Washington Post.  

Indeed, the idea that Brazil got off oil 30 years ago cannot be farther from the truth, says 

  • Brazil is one of the largest producers of ethanol in the world and is the largest exporter of the fuel.
  • Additionally, more than half of all cars in Brazil are flexible-fuel capable, which means they can run on 100 percent ethanol or an ethanol-gasoline mixture.
  • However, even though Brazil aggressively uses biofuels, and invests quite a bit in hydroelectric power, it still produces and consumes a lot of oil.
  • In 2008, Brazil ranked No. 7 on the list of the world's countries that consume the most oil, using about 2.5 million barrels per day; in first place was the United States at 19.5 million barrels per day, followed by China, Japan, India, Russia, and Germany.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that Brazil will become a net exporter of oil this year.  

According to the Oil and Gas Journal: 

  • Brazil had 12.6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves in 2009, second largest in South America after Venezuela.
  • In 2008, Brazil produced 2.4 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil, of which 76 percent was crude oil.
  • Brazil's oil production has risen steadily in recent years, with the country's oil production in 2008 about 150,000 bbl/d (6 percent) higher than 2007.
  • Because of this rising oil production and flat consumption growth, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects that Brazil will become a net oil exporter in 2009.
  • Despite Brazil's ethanol expansion, cars there still burn a huge amount of oil-related product.  

Potentially even more embarrassing for Maher, the Obama administration is funding some of Brazil's offshore production, the Wall Street Journal reported last August. 

Source: Editorial, "Brazil got off oil in the last 30 years,", May 2, 2010; Noel Sheppard, "George Will Smacks Down Bill Maher On This Week: Brazil Doesn't Use Oil?", May 2, 2010. 

For PolitiFact text:  

For NewsBusters text:  


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