Fact-Checking The Energy Debate

Oct 17 2012 @ 3:02pm

Part of the back and forth on energy from last night:

One claim Romney made in the debate:

The president's right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production was down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands, and in federal waters.

CBS News unravels it:

Romney is correct that in 2011 oil production was, in fact, down on federal lands: The EIA reported this year that "total crude oil sales of production from Federal and Indian lands increased from 642 million barrels in FY 2009 to 739 million barrels in FY 2010, but decreased to 646 million barrels in FY 2011." That amounts to an 11 percent reduction. The EIA explained that crude oil production from federal lands is "dominated by offshore production from the Federal Outer Continental Shelf" — production that was disrupted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Romney said production was down because "the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands, and in federal waters." But according to the Bureau of Land Management, the government issued 2,188 new leases in 2011, up from 1,308 in 2010. That's a decrease, however, from the 3,499 new leases issued in 2007. If one considers the total number of leases in effect, the number decreased slightly from 2010 (50,544 leases) to 2011 (49,173). However, there were more leases in effect in 2011 than in 2007, when there were 48,933.

PolitiFact weighs in, confirming Romney's 14% number on oil production – but also dismantling it with context:

Production under Obama was hobbled due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, making a one-year figure subject to cherry-picking. And it’s not at all clear that the president in charge when the oil is taken out of the ground deserves full credit or blame; years of prior policies on exploration and drilling had an impact. 

For instance, looking back:

• From 2004-08, well into Bush’s tenure, oil production on federal lands and waters fell in four of five years, for a net decrease of 16.8 percent.

• From 2009-11, the Obama years, oil production rose two of three years, for a net increase of 10.6 percent.

The bottom line: overall energy production is up [NYT] since Obama took office. On another energy exchange last night, FactCheck.org points out an Obama fib:

Obama falsely claimed Romney once referred to wind-power jobs as “imaginary.” Not true. Romney actually spoke of “an imaginary world” where “windmills and solar panels could power the economy.”