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Debate fact check: Romney stumbles on energy

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Jim Young/Reuters

(Read caption) President Obama (L) looks over at Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the second US presidential campaign debate in Hempstead, N.Y., Oct. 16, 2012. The two candidates sparred over energy policy several times, with a debate fact check showing the president having the edge in presenting facts in context.

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When energy policy took the floor on Tuesday night's presidential debate, the sparks began to fly. President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney sparred over oil production on public lands and the factors behind the rise in gasoline during the president's first term.  

But somewhere between the one-liners and the verbal counterpunches, the facts and the context behind them got bruised (as they often do in presidential debates). On energy, at least, they seemed more abused by the challenger than the incumbent.

Start with Mr. Romney's charge about oil and gas production on federal land.

Romney: "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."

Obama: "Very little of what Governor Romney just said is true. We've opened up public lands. We're actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration and my — the previous president was an oilman."

The facts Romney quotes are correct, as far as they go. Oil sales on federal lands did fall 14 percent between 2010 and 2011. But the main driver wasn't the administration's leasing policy. It was Mr. Obama's temporary moratorium on offshore drilling after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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