George Will Smacks Down Bill Maher On This Week: Brazil Doesn't Use Oil?

Bill Maher was clearly out of his league Sunday when he made an absurd claim about Brazil being off oil for decades only to be corrected by a significantly more knowledgeable George Will.

As the Roundtable discussion of ABC's "This Week" turned to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, host Jake Tapper mentioned -- without the vulgarity -- what Maher said on HBO's "Real Time" about President Obama not "getting more shall we say guff" for this crisis.

Maher concluded his answer by erroneously saying, "I mean, Brazil got off oil in the last 30 years, we certainly could have."

When Will got his chance to respond, Maher was left looking rather foolish (video embedded below the fold with transcript, commentary, and oil data to further embarrass the "Real Time" host, relevant section at 2:48):

JAKE TAPPER, HOST: Bill, I was watching your show Friday night, and you said, in language more suitable for premium cable...

BILL MAHER, HBO: I promise I won't here. They're so nervous about that. 

TAPPER: That, that you're surprised that President Obama isn't getting more shall we say guff...

MAHER: Guff. Exactly.

TAPPER: ...for this crisis. 

MAHER: Yes, I think he should. You know, he, he owns this issue now, because it was only a few weeks ago that he came out for offshore drilling. And, I would say philosophically this is, you know, the problem I think a lot of people on the Left have with the country and have for many years is that there's no one that really represents our point of view. There's two parties who want to fight the war on terror with an army in Afghanistan. There's two parties who want to drill offshore. Where is the other side on this? So, you know, I could certainly criticize oil companies, and I could criticize America in general for not attacking this problem in the '70s. I mean, Brazil got off oil in the last 30 years, we certainly could have. But it is very disappointing, I think, for this President to be taking a position, as he has, and I guess he's backpedalling now on it, I hope. I mean, I hope there's a flip-flop I can believe in there. [...]

GEORGE WILL:  I'd like to go back to Bill, can you just explain to me in what sense Brazil got off oil?

MAHER: (Looking like a deer in headlights): I believe they did. I believe they in the '70s, they had a program to use sugar cane ethanol. And I believe that is what fuels their country. 

WILL: I think they still burn a lot of it and have a lot of it offshore.  

Indeed.

According to NationMaster.com, Brazil is the eighth largest consumer of oil in the world burning 2.372 million barrels a day. That places them ahead of Canada, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Mexico, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Spain.

Furthermore, according to the CIA, Brazil is the thirteenth largest producer of oil in the world putting them ahead of Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, Nigeria, Angola, Libya, and Great Britain.

As for offshore activities, our Energy Information Administration claims the vast majority of Brazil's huge reserves are indeed offshore:

According to the Oil and Gas Journal (OGJ), Brazil had 12.6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves in 2009, second-largest in South America after Venezuela. The offshore Campos and Santos Basins, located on the country's southeast coast, contain the vast majority of Brazil's proven reserves. 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. Based on its September 2009 Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA forecasts Brazilian oil production to reach 2.61 million bbl/d in 2009 and 2.81 million bbl/d in 2010. Brazil's oil consumption averaged 2.52 million bbl/d in 2008. As a result of this rising oil production and flat consumption growth, EIA expects that Brazil will become a net oil exporter in 2009. 

As for ethanol:

Brazil is one of the largest producers of ethanol in the world and is the largest exporter of the fuel. In 2008, Brazil produced 454,000 bbl/d of ethanol, up from 365,000 in 2007. All gasoline in Brazil contains ethanol, with blending levels varying from 20-25 percent. Over half of all cars in the country are of the flex-fuel variety, meaning that they can run on 100 percent ethanol or an ethanol-gasoline mixture. According to ANP, Brazil also produced about 20,000 bbl/d of biodiesel in 2008, and the agency has enacted a three-percent blending requirement for domestic diesel sales. 

If gasoline blends are currently using 20-25 percent ethanol in Brazil, that means 75 to 80 percent is gasoline. And, if diesel only requires 3 percent ethanol, 97 percent is NOT ethanol.

With this in mind, despite Brazil's ethanol expansion, cars there still burn a HUGE amount of oil-related product quite contrary to what the HBO host stated.

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

The U.S. is going to lend billions of dollars to Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobras, to finance exploration of the huge offshore discovery in Brazil's Tupi oil field in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro. Brazil's planning minister confirmed that White House National Security Adviser James Jones met this month with Brazilian officials to talk about the loan.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank tells us it has issued a "preliminary commitment" letter to Petrobras in the amount of $2 billion and has discussed with Brazil the possibility of increasing that amount.

You were saying, Bill?  

*****Update: PotitiFact has also fact-checked Maher and found his claim false (h/t @ClericalGal). 

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.