NBC's O'Donnell uncritically reported Bush's claims regarding progress in Iraqi oil, electricity production

››› ››› JOE BROWN

On NBC's Today, White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell uncritically reported President Bush's statement that progress in Iraq can be measured "in megawatts of electricity delivered" and "in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people." O'Donnell failed to note that most of the country has electricity for less than half the day and that oil output has remained below prewar levels since the U.S.-led invasion.

On the June 15 edition of NBC's Today, White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell reported President Bush's statement that progress in Iraq can be measured "in megawatts of electricity delivered" and "in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people." O'Donnell provided no perspective on the "progress" made so far in Iraqi electricity and oil production. Most of the country has electricity for less than half the day -- significantly less than that in Baghdad -- while oil output has remained constant since the U.S.-led invasion at an amount below prewar levels.

In contrast, a June 15 Washington Post article by staff writer Michael A. Fletcher quoted Bush's statement, but also noted:

The Iraqi government will have to succeed where the U.S.-led coalition has not if those measures [electricity generation and oil production] are to improve. Crude oil production remains below prewar levels in Iraq, according to State Department figures, a situation that has been largely offset by higher prices. Despite huge investments, electricity is blacked out more than half the day in most of the country, and in Baghdad, electricity is operational an average of eight hours daily, less than half of prewar levels, the State Department said.

As can be seen in a chart from the State Department's June 7 Iraq Weekly Status Report, Iraq's overall electricity generation has fluctuated over the past two years between levels slightly above and below estimates of prewar levels, more frequently lower than before the war. In addition, during the same period, demand for electricity in Iraq increased from an estimate of about 100,000 megawatt hours (MWh) daily to about 170,000 MWh daily, leading to a greater gap between demand and supply. The report notes that "[e]lectricity output since the start of 2006 is 6 percent higher than it was for the same period in 2005" and that electricity availability in Baghdad "is increasing with improved performance by area power plants." However, it also notes that Iraq's "[n]ationwide average electricity availability" is only "11.3 hours per day" and that the average electricity availability in Baghdad is only "8.4 hours per day."

The State Department's April 2006 Section 2207 Report on Iraq Relief and Reconstruction estimated nationwide prewar electricity availability in Iraq at between four and 12 hours daily, suggesting that the current availability of 11.3 hours per day could be an improvement. But the report also estimated prewar electricity availability in Baghdad at between 12 and 24 hours daily, decidedly higher than the current 8.4 hours of availability. Moreover, current electricity availability levels are virtually unchanged from levels in 2005, as noted in the report -- 11.3 hours a day nationwide and 8.8 hours in Baghdad.

As the State Department's June 7 weekly report also noted, Iraq's crude-oil production currently hovers just above 2 million barrels per day (Mbpd). The Reuters news service noted on June 15 that "[s]ince the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, oil production has been stuck at 2 million bpd with exports of 1.5 million bpd. That compares to pre-war output of just under 3 million bpd and exports of around 2 million."

From the June 15 edition of NBC News' Today:

O'DONNELL: With a stride that seemed to match a stretch of favorable news, the president tried to recalibrate expectations about what the new Iraqi government can do.

BUSH [video clip]: I hope there's not an expectation from -- from -- from people that all of the sudden there's going to be zero violence.

O'DONNELL: He insisted U.S. troops will stay, again rebuffing timetables, but did say that benchmarks should be set and even made public.

BUSH [video clip]: You can measure progress in the capacity of Iraqi units. You can measure progress in megawatts of electricity delivered. You can measure progress in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
Kelly O'Donnell
Show/Publication
Today Show
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