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So-Called Energy Expert Sarah Palin Doesn’t Know How Much Energy Her State Produces

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"So-Called Energy Expert Sarah Palin Doesn’t Know How Much Energy Her State Produces"

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On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) defended Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s “experience” in “the field of national security” by asserting that “she knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America.” McCain’s claim to Palin’s expertise was undercut the next day, however, when Palin severely overstated Alaska’s energy production in an interview with ABC News’s Charlie Gibson.

Challenged by Gibson on her “national security credentials,” Palin cited her experience as the governor of a “state that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy” as a credential that she “brings to the table“:

PALIN: Let me speak specifically about a credential that I do bring to this table, Charlie, and that’s with the energy independence that I’ve been working on for these years as the governor of this state that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy, that I worked on as chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, overseeing the oil and gas development in our state to produce more for the United States.

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But, as the non-partisan FactCheck.org points out, Palin’s claim about Alaska producing 20 percent of America’s domestic energy supply is “not true. Not even close.” In fact, “Alaska’s share of domestic energy production was 3.5 percent.”

Palin would have been closer to reality, but still incorrect if she made the claim specifically about oil production rather than energy supply:

Palin would have been correct to say that Alaska produces just over 14 percent of all the oil produced in the U.S., leaving out imports and leaving out other forms of power. According to the federal government’s Energy Information Administration, Alaskan wells produced 263.6 million barrels of oil in 2007, or 14.3 percent of the total U.S. production of 1.8 billion barrels.

But Alaskan production accounts for only 4.8 percent of all the crude oil and petroleum products supplied to the U.S. in 2007, counting both domestic production and imports from other nations. According to EIA, the total supply was just over 5.5 billion barrels in 2007.

Furthermore, Palin said “energy,” not “oil,” so she was actually much further off the mark. According to EIA, Alaska actually produced 2,417.1 trillion BTUs [British Thermal Units] of energy in 2005, the last year for which full state numbers are available. That’s equal to just 3.5 percent of the country’s domestic energy production.

Palin’s incorrect facts appear to be rubbing off on McCain. As FactCheck.org notes, McCain made the same claim in a separate interview with Gibson on Sept. 3. “She’s been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20 percent of America’s energy supply,” McCain told Gibson.

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