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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin knows being pro-production doesn't mean being in the oil companies' pocket

Saturday's Houston Chronicle has a superb, insightful article by staff reporter Tom Fowler which quotes independent but knowledgeable energy industry experts who are familiar with Gov. Sarah Palin's record. It's packed with specific facts about that record, and the quoted experts ably draw a set of important distinctions. The article starts with a bang (boldface mine):

In an election where energy has moved to the top of the agenda, Republican vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin arguably brings more credibility on the topic than anyone else on the two major tickets.

She's the governor of Alaska, where close to 85 percent of the budget comes from oil revenue. It's second only to Texas among the states in oil production.

She's the previous head of the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and is married to a North Slope oil production engineer.

Since taking office in 2006 she has thrown out the previous administration's plans for a North Slope natural gas pipeline, which had been criticized as too generous to oil producers, and has bolstered state coffers through an overhaul of the state's oil and gas tax structure.

"Between Biden, Obama and McCain, Palin is the only one who can spell 'energy.' The rest of these guys are completely clueless," said David Pursell, an analyst with Houston-based Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., an energy investment and research firm.

So does industry knowledge translate into closeness? To the contrary:

Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Palin knows the energy industry, "warts and all," and understands the importance of energy policy.

"She has shown an independent streak and has been anything but a patsy in dealing with the oil industry in Alaska," Bullock said.

The article notes that doctrinaire liberal interest groups (my characterization) insist that Palin is a puppet of the industry, which is also how they've characterized Bush and Cheney. At least with respect to Palin, however, that's just hogwash, say candid Alaska Democrats who actually know:

But Mike Doogan, a Democrat in Alaska's House of Representatives, said he's not so sure about Palin's chumminess with the industry.

"They don't have big color pictures of Sarah Palin in the board rooms of BP, ConocoPhillips or Exxon," Doogan said. "If she's in the pocket of big oil, she's kept it a pretty good secret."

(This is wry understatement. If ExxonMobil has Sarah Palin's picture up in its boardroom, it's tacked to a dart-board.)

Doogan said he agrees with Palin's oil and gas policies, as do many in the state where the state budget and economy rely on oil production. But the partnership between state government and the industry is not necessarily a happy one, he said.

"It's a good partnership if you consider having to sue your partner constantly to pay you a good thing," Doogan said, referring to frequent litigation between the state and industry over taxes and other issues.

The article runs through the conspicuous energy policy successes she's had despite her short tenure, often after vigorous "head-knocking" of the major oil companies, and always with complete public transparency (in contrast to her predecessors).

Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy fellow at Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, said Palin represents a departure from past Alaskan politicians in how she has motivated the oil industry.

"She's taken much more of a 'knocking-heads' approach," Jaffe said. "She has stood up to the big players when she didn't like the process, and I don't think it's played well with the industry."

But there's no doubt Palin is clearly pro-oil production, said Robin West, chairman of energy strategy firm PFC Energy.

But her record, however, also suggests that being pro-production doesn't necessarily mean she's reliably pro-industry, West said.

"The agenda of Alaska and the agenda of Exxon are not always the same," West said. "They may both want more production but it may not be under the same terms."

There is no magic pony. My kids will be parents, and maybe grandparents, before we're wholly weaned from fossil fuels. We need to conserve; we need alternative sources.

But in the meantime, we still need to drill now, drill here, and drill smartly. Sarah Palin gets this. Better yet, she will make it happen — which in large part means "letting it happen," but in a smart way, making the market forces work for the taxpaying public and keeping everything thoroughly disinfected with the sunshine of public scrutiny.

Beldar's plea to Sen. McCain for the coming week: In your acceptance speech, use that multi-media capability to show video, plus maps, that will make abundantly clear to everyone watching just what a tiny portion of unexceptional mudflats will be disturbed when we drill in ANWR. Explain that your fabulous and knowledgeable running mate has opened your eyes to the fact that "pristine" doesn't always mean "precious," and that responsible development doesn't mean "plunder." And then announce that for the rest of the campaign and then from Day 1 forward of the McCain-Palin administration, Sarah Palin will be your energy czar, pounding on congressional doors to make this happen as part of an overall multi-faceted energy plan.

Posted by Beldar at 07:12 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


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(1) Hunter made the following comment | Aug 30, 2008 7:40:32 AM | Permalink

very nice article, i've been a fan of Sarah Palin for quite a while.

(2) Michael J. Myers made the following comment | Aug 30, 2008 10:37:08 AM | Permalink

Beldar, I see you've been fighting the good fight for Sarah Palin on various other blogs including Althouse. A lot of the criticisms of Ms. Palin are simply ridiculous.

She's a reformer, and she's a fighter. Point guards sometimes have sharp elbows, and they certainly know how to use them. I'll go with instinct, energy and openness, and she has all of those in quantities vastly superior to Messrs. Obama and poor old Slow Joe Biden.

Keep up the good fight.

(3) NukemHill made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 8:43:18 PM | Permalink

I've been reading your posts on Sarah, Beldar. Good stuff. She's an exciting gal. I hope there's fire beneath the smoke, and not mirrors.

If she's "all that and more", as the saying goes, and she and McCain ride into the White House, I'm looking forward to some pitched battles between her and the Dems in Congress. The one problem that I foresee is if the Dems manage to hold onto their majority (not only not-out-of-the-question, but actually quite likely). If that happens, they'll look at it as a mandate on their stand against increased domestic energy production, and they'll dig their heels in bigtime.

With full cooperation by the press, of course. As a result of that, Palin will be cast as completely ineffectual. This could be a big issue down the line, if she does have designs on the Presidency.

Keep up the good work.

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