Candidates launch attacks over oil and gas production, war on coal

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The second presidential debate opened up with a heated exchange over energy issues, as both candidates sought to paint the other as hostile to responsible energy production.

“We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years,” President Barack Obama said in the debate on Tuesday. “Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. That’s why we doubled clean — clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels.”

“Now, Governor Romney will say he’s got an all-of-the-above plan, but basically his plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policies,” Obama said. “So he’s got the oil and gas part, but he doesn’t have the clean energy part.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney countered, arguing that President Obama’s record on gas and oil production was overstated.

“And the president’s right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land,” Romney said. “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,” said Romney.

However, Obama shot back, arguing that his administration had taken steps to foster increased oil and gas production.

“[V]ery 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 oil man,” Obama said. “And natural gas isn’t just appearing magically. We’re encouraging it and working with the industry.”

“But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years,” Romney retorted, starting a series of interruptions from both candidates. “That’s the problem. In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.”

The Energy Information Administration reported that the United States oil production in 2011 increased 5 percent from 2010, but oil production on federal lands fell 14 percent during that same time.

“On every point, Governor Romney told the truth to the American people and President Obama did not,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance. “Leasing and permitting on federal lands have plummeted under Obama’s watch. Under this administration, the leasing rate has slowed by about half, and the total amount of federal acres leased has fallen by 18 percent. Offshore production was down 17 percent last year, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).”

“The time it takes to receive a permit to drill on federal lands has doubled, and the Obama administration has issued 40 percent fewer permits,” Pyle said. “These are facts, not Chicago-style campaign rhetoric.”

Both candidates also traded barbs over their respective record on coal, with Romney attacking the administration’s war on coal.

“I was in coal country. People grabbed my arms and said, ‘Please save my job.’ The head of the EPA said, ‘You can’t build a coal plant… [I]t’s virtually impossible given our regulations.’” Romney said. “When the president ran for office, he said if you build a coal plant, you can go ahead, but you’ll go bankrupt.”

“I don’t think anyone really believes that you’re a person who’s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal,” Romney added.

However, Obama jumped on the topic of coal to hit romney for a speech he gave while Governor of Massachusetts in which he closed down a coal plant, saying it was killing people.

“[Y]ou stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, ‘This plant kills,’ and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal,” Obama shot back.

“With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology, to make sure that even as we’re producing more coal, we’re producing it cleaner and smarter,” Obama continued. “Same thing with oil, same thing with natural gas.”

Despite touting his support for coal, Obama administration policies have been reported to contribute to the closing of coal plants throughout the U.S.

“This debate was further proof that both candidates recognize coal’s importance to voters, but the question is will they enact policies that recognize coal’s importance to America?” said Lisa Camooso Miller, vice president of media affairs at American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

“The current EPA is pursuing policies that will lead to the shutdown of more than 200 coal plants, enough to power the state of Ohio,” she added. “Voters in Ohio, Virginia and around the country want balanced policies that will ensure a future for coal.”

The Environmental Protection Agency estimated the cost of just one of its major regulations, the utility MACT — a rule to limit toxic emissions like mercury, arsenic and metal from power plants — at $10.2 billion

“Energy is the first component of Governor Romney’s plan for economic recovery, while President Obama has imposed job-killing regulations on affordable energy industries and dumped billions of wasted taxpayer dollars into renewable companies that have filed for bankruptcy in appalling numbers,” Pyle said.

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