Anatomy of a Debate Fight: The Energy Question

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There were a couple exciting moments in the presidential debate last night when President Obama and Mitt Romney revealed they do not like each other very much. One of those was on the not-typically-emotionally-charged issue of energy permits. Relive it in our GIF anatomy of the fight.


Romney responds to a question about gas prices by saying that Obama hasn't pursued an energy policy that would drive prices down. Obama responds that he's encouraged growth in all energy sectors, both clean and dirty, and that that will create jobs. "That's the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that's what we're going to do in the next four years."

Step 1: The provocation.

Romney cuts in. "But that's not what you've done in the last four years. That's the problem. In the last four years, you've cut permits and licences on federal lands and federal waters in half."

"Not true Governor Romney."

Step 2: The personal space invasion.

The start walking and talking over each over.

Romney: "So how much did you cut licenses?"

Obama: "Not true."

Romney: "How much did you cut them by, then?"

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Obama: "Governor, we have actually produced more oil --"

Romney: "No, no. How much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?"

Step 3: The finger point in the general facial area.

Obama: "Governor Romney, here's what we did..."

Step 4: Escalation, and appeal to the crowd.

Here, notice how Romney puts his hands closer to Obama's general facial area. Obama quickly turns to the crowd, like 'Can you believe this?' then changes his hand position to say, 'Let's be reasonable...'

"I had a question," Romney says, "and that was how much did you cut them by?"

Step 5: Further appeals to third parties.

"How much did you cut them by?" Romney demands. Obama said companies had leases on public lands that they weren't using. "So what we said was you can't just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it's most profitable for you."

Step 6: Attempt to return to engagement.

Romney tries to ask his question a third time.

Romney: And production on private -- on government land --

Obama: Production is up.

Romney: -- is down.

Obama: No, it isn't.

Step 7: Disengage

Obama tries to signal an end to the fight by turning his back and walking away. Twice.

Romney: "Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent."

Obama: "Governor --"

Romney: "And production on gas --"

Obama: "It's just not true."

Who's right?

The New York Times shows that energy production has not gone down under Obama:

But, as National Journal explains, "It’s hard to answer that question right now because the most up-to-date information on production numbers actually reflects regulatory and policy action taken several years ago, dating possibly back to the George W. Bush administration or even earlier." Whether energy production is up depends on which fuel you mean and where it's coming from:

Oil production on public lands is up 12 percent from 2008 to 2011, according to a March report by the Energy Information Administration...There was a dip in production in the Gulf of Mexico in 2011 because of the BP oil spill, but oil production on public lands has steadily increased since 2008.

Natural-gas production on public lands is down 16.5 percent between 2008 and 2011, according to the same EIA report. Natural-gas production on private lands has steadily increased from 2005 to 2011...

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.