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Presidential debate 101: In oil drilling spat, did Obama make his best case?

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Instead, Obama said the industry was sitting on leases for decades. “So if you want to drill on public lands, you use it or you lose it,” he told Romney.

The government did take away some leases, agrees Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert affiliated with the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management.

But she says Obama’s implication that the energy companies are lazy may be too negative.

“Sometimes it’s more complicated,” she says. For example, she says oil companies have to decide what their priorities are in terms of drilling. Sometimes, the best prospects may be in West Africa or Latin America. “You have to show management you are better off drilling here than somewhere else,” she says.

How about Obama’s contention that oil production has risen while he has been president?

That is true.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), domestic production of oil, as of this month, is up by 26.4 percent over the end of President Bush’s term.

But Romney kept repeating that production was down this year on federal lands. “Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent,” he repeated over and over again.

Romney’s assertion is partly true, but from 2010 to 2011, not this year. According to the EIA, production of oil on federal and American Indian lands dropped 12.5 percent in that time period.

Natural gas production was off 11 percent, higher than the 9 percent claimed by Romney. However, production of natural gas in total was up 7 percent in 2011 from 2010 as companies drilled wells on private land in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Dakota. Since Obama became president, natural gas production is up 12 percent.

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