NEW ORLEANS -- It presented one of the most heated exchanges of Tuesday night's presidential debate in New York, as oil and gas production took center stage in the race for the presidency.
Romney: "No, no, how much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?"
Obama: "Governor Romney, here's what we did. There were a whole bunch of oil companies --"
At issue: Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney's assertion that oil production was down 14 percent and gas production was down 9 percent on federal lands. Romney's statement is true, up to a point.
"It is an accurate statement, but you have to be careful, because, overall, production is up," said Eric Smith of the Tulane Energy Institute.
According to the Department of Energy, oil and gas production did decline by those numbers on federal lands between 2010 and 2011. However, that time frame coincides with the drilling moratorium after the BP oil spill.
"We were dealing with the largest offshore drilling disaster in history," said Raleigh Hoke of the Gulf Restoration Network. "But, overall, in the four years of the administration, we've actually seen an increase in the drilling for oil on federal lands."
The talk about oil and gas production led right into another town hall question, about whether the president has the ability to affect gas prices.
"The bottom line is that no president can make a huge dent in what our gas prices are going to be," Hoke said. "The gas prices are based on a global market and the global demand for gas is going up."
Smith, of the Tulane Energy Institute, disagreed.
"Can a president have an immediate impact? No. But I think things like the Keystone XL pipeline delays, delays on exports are really bad for trying to optimize the system to produce the lowest possible prices," Smith said.
The two differing views on the energy sector present two potential paths, and how the nation gets its energy in the future could be determined in this election.