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Applying the Truth-o-Meter to the State of the Union's Energy Claims

Did President Obama somehow become the most pro-energy president in decades? You might think so based on his State of the Union address.

His administration's record, however, proves the opposite. Here are the five most deceiving claims from the speech.

Claim 1: "We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years."

Most of the increased oil and gas production is from private lands, over which - thankfully - the Obama administration has no control. On federal lands and offshore, the Obama administration has denied or delayed countless drilling requests.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) granted on average 3,764 oil and gas leases annually under President Clinton. George W. Bush clocked in 2,879 per year. But Obama: only 1,856.

Claim 2: "My administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits."

Almost immediately upon taking office, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar withdrew tracts of public land that had already been approved for oil and gas leasing. After the Deep Horizon oil spill, Salazar also delayed an offshore drilling program for six months.

And 2009 saw the lowest-ever recorded number of onshore acres leased, according to the Institute for Energy Research. The Obama administration had offered up to 2,888,354 onshore acres. But only 1,028,299 were actually leased. And the administration rescinded or deferred 77,055 acres issued for lease in 2008 in Utah.

Claim 3: "Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America."

According to the Energy Information Administration, oil, natural gas and coal comprised 82 percent of American energy consumption in 2011 - the most recent year of full data. Nuclear power accounted for 8.3 percent. Biofuels and all other renewable sources made up just 9 percent, combined.

There may be benefits from renewable energy. But it will be decades before it significantly contributes to American energy generation.

Claim 4: "Solar energy gets cheaper by the year - so let's drive costs down even further."

Solar energy only gets "cheaper" because the administration pours billions of taxpayer dollars into it. The Wall Street Journal notes that "for every tax dollar that goes to coal, oil and natural gas, wind gets $88 and solar $1,212."

And don't forget that Solyndra, one of Obama's "model" solar companies, received $535 million in taxpayer largesse before going belly up.

Claim 5: "We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar - with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it."

Those fuel efficiency requirements don't click-in until 2025, and it's more like thousands of temporary jobs funded by taxpayer dollars. Funneling this money toward green energy distorts the market and is economically inefficient.

The Truth?

If the president truly wants to grow the middle class, he should unleash oil and gas. State legislatures have already taken some serious steps to unshackle this sector - and they've reaped massive economic rewards.

Texas, for instance, is looking at an $8.8 billion budget surplus thanks mostly to huge new tax revenues from oil and gas development. At the same time, Texas is aggressively pursuing wind energy. But it's the success of traditional energy that is enabling those renewable energy efforts.

The oil and gas explosion has bolstered Obama's economy. The irony is he will get the credit, despite the time and money he's invested against it.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on twitter: @MerrillMatthews.