Obama fashions himself as a defender of coal, oil, gas, Romney calls foul

A simple question on gas prices ignited a sharp disagreement between the presidential candidates at their second debate Tuesday night ??? President Barack Obama described himself as a friend of oil and coal, Mitt Romney challenged the characterization and said the administration???s policies have crippled the industry.

???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,??? Romney said.

The Obama administration also announced recently it would lock up nearly half of the 23 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska from energy production and instead set it aside for wildlife and species protection.

And despite protests from the energy industry that new exploration and development is being blocked by the Obama administration, the president maintained that he has been generous with public land development.

???We’re actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration,??? Obama said.

Fashioning himself as a champion of coal, Obama said his administration ???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. Same thing with oil, same thing with natural gas.???

Romney disagreed and said Obama???s policies have blocked industry and consumers from taking advantage of the country???s vast natural resources.

The largest union of coal miners has refused to endorse Obama and has criticized the president???s regulations as a death sentence for the industry.

???This has not been Mr. Oil, or Mr. Gas, or Mr. Coal,??? Romney said. ???Talk to the people that are working in those industries. I was in coal country. People grabbed my arms and said, ???Please save my job.??????

???When the president ran for office, he said if you build a coal plant, you can go ahead, but you’ll go bankrupt. That’s not the right course for America,??? Romney said.

Obama initially denied that his administration cut permits and licenses for development on public lands, but later said that the paperwork was in fact pulled because companies weren???t utilizing the land.

???The people recognize that we have not produced more on federal lands and in federal waters. And coal, coal production is not up; coal jobs are not up. I was just at a coal facility, where some 1,200 people lost their jobs. The right course for America is to have a true all-of-the-above policy. 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 said.

Obama also said he was ???all for pipelines??? but did not explain why his administration continues to block the Keystone XL pipeline except to say ???we’ve built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once.???

As for the original question that sparked the debate, did Obama agree with his energy secretary who stated on three occasions that it was not the policy of the agency to help lower gas prices, Obama never gave an answer.

However, Obama did say that the reason the price of gas when he took office was $1.85 a gallon, but expected to top $4 this week, is because the economy is stronger under his administration than it was when he took office.

???Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney’s now promoting,??? Obama said.