Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) often claims that Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) is the country’s top energy expert, citing her work sharing Alaska’s energy wealth with the rest of the country. For example, McCain said she was responsible for “the $40 billion pipeline bringing natural gas from Alaska down to the lower 48.” (However, “the pipeline exists only on paper.”) Similarly, Palin has claimed that her state produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy. (This is a lie.)
Actually, last year, Palin opposed a plan to bring Alaska’s natural gas to the lower 48 states. This past summer, the Department of Energy issued an order allowing ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil to to export 98.1 billion cubic feet of Alaskan natural gas — roughly the amount of natural gas used by 1.4 million families — to Asia. This had been the practice since 1969, since there were few alternatives to exporting.
However, as Time reports, “since this past May, some of Alaska’s gas could have wound up in domestic hands.” Sempra Energy opened the first Liquified Natural Gas terminal on the West Coast of North America. The facility “is tied directly to the gas pipeline system that leads to California, Texas and Arizona.” However, Palin intervened with the DOE in April 2007, asking it to approve Conoco/Marathon’s exports to Asia:
She asked DOE to condition its approval on guarantees that gas needed in Alaska not be diverted to the better-paying foreign venues — a position she held until this past January, when the producers reached separate agreement with the state to meet its needs.
At no time did Palin or her government cite the desire to preserve Alaskan gas for the lower 48 states. The Sempra terminal began operations just four months after Palin announced unconditional support for the Marathon and ConocoPhillips request and a month before DOE approved their plans to export gas to Asia.
As one of America’s top energy experts, Palin should have known about the Sempra project, which was “well-known and much anticipated in energy circles.”
In addition, as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pointed out in a letter to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman in September, Chugach Electric Association, the largest electric utility in Alaska, also opposed Palin’s request. “Indeed, the Department rejected the pleas from Chugach to condition the export of Alaskan gas on assurances that Alaska’s own need for natural gas was met,” wrote Wyden.