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Sarah Palin is the fungible candidate

By Joe Romm

"Sarah Palin is the fungible candidate"

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NewsI have a new article in Salon on Sarah Palin, “The fungible candidate.” But it is really about the (lack of) judgment of John McCain. He famously said of his VP pick, “She knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America.”

As we’ll see Palin lacks both breadth and depth of knowledge on the subject.

She said in the ABC interview with Charlie Gibson:

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.

FactCheck.org notes that is “simply untrue.” Instead of “nearly 20 percent,” try “under 3 percent.” On September 14, Palin corrected that to “My job has been to oversee nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of oil and gas.” In fact, as the Washington Post notes, “according to authoritative EIA data, Alaska accounted for just 7.4 percent of total U.S. oil and gas production in 2005.” The Post gives her its highest (which is to say lowest) rating of “Four Pinocchios” for continuing to “to peddle bogus statistics three days after the original error was pointed out by independent fact-checkers.”

Just for the record, the statement is not true even if you replace the word “energy” with “oil.” Alaska produces only about 13% of US oil production. But the point is, you can’t replace all of energy with oil, as much as the “Drill, Baby, Drill” Republicans would like to. Palin made the same exact same mistaken overgeneraliztion in her convention speech, when she said, To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly a fifth of the world’s energy supplies….” Oil, maybe, energy, definitely not.

Okay, so clearly she has no breadth of knowledge on energy matters beyond oil. Does she actually have any depth of knowledge on oil? No.

Her lack of depth was painfully on display last week when she was asked at a Michigan town meeting: “I’d like to know that all that oil we’re going to drill here is going to stay here domestically and it’s not going to be exported by the oil companies.” You can listen to her answer here:

Oil (of coal), of course, is a fungible commodity and they don’t flag, ya know, the molecules where, where it’s going to where it’s not but and in the, in the sense of the Congress today they know our very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So I believe that what Congress is going to do also is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here, it’s gotta flow into our domestic markets first.

Not quite Miss Teen South Carolina territory, but borderline gibberish, self-contradictory, and kinda pointless.

Let’s forget that she starts by saying “of coal” instead of “of course.” Could happen to anyone who is nervous. She is certainly correct that oil is fungible (i.e. completely interchangeable) — the world market doesn’t care or have any way of knowing where the original oil comes from. But why add the “flag the molecules” line? Obviously nobody would flag molecules. If she thought “fungible” might not be understood by her audience, how could “flag the molecules” add either simplicity or clarity?

But it’s the rest of the quote where she runs her logic aground like the Exxon Valdez tanker. Palin was asked about the possibility that oil companies might export any newly drilled crude oil. She said that would be a bad idea (twice) because “domestic markets” should get that oil “first.” She says Congress knows that, but that what Congress will do “is not allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here.” That would be mostly coherent if she dropped the word “bans.” But as it reads now she seems to be contradicting herself.

But here’s the real question: Just how much of the crude oil that America drills today is exported? According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2007, America exported a whopping 27 thousand barrels of crude oil a day. That would be compared to 13,500 thousand barrels of crude oil a day that we imported. So crude oil exports are about as consequential a national energy problem as my 18-month-old daughter insisting I turn the fan on whenever we enter a new room.

Just for the record, all of the crude oil we exported in 2007 went to … wait for it … Canada. But we imported 2,455 thousands barrels of oil a day from Canada — nearly 100 times what we exported to them.

The best part of all this? MSNBC’s “Answer Desk” noted in June:

The exports to Canada represent a small part of the output of Alaskan oil that can be cheaply shipped to nearby parts of Canada.

So, yeah, it’d be really shrewd energy policy to ban crude oil exports.

Now you’ll be relieved to know that the Christian science Monitor reported last week:

At a rally in Vienna, Ohio, Tuesday, Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said that, if elected, she would lead the nation’s energy efforts.

“John and I, we’ve discussed some new responsibilities that I’m going to have as vice president,” Reuters reports Palin saying at the rally. “First, I’ll help to lead the mission of energy security.”

Problem solved! Hey, Ronald Reagan’s first Energy Secretary was a dentist. Well, he was an expert on drilling.

The point is conservatives like John McCain don’t believe in using the tools of government to promote alternative energy, fuel efficiency vehicles or energy security. They don’t believe in a serious energy policy at all, unless Drill, Baby, Drill, counts. So they don’t need people with either breadth or depth of knowledge in energy. In that sense, Sarah Palin is just another fungible conservative energy expert.

‹ House Dems embrace “Drill, baby, drill”

Will the renewable energy tax credits finally be extended? ›

7 Responses to Sarah Palin is the fungible candidate

  1. Ronald says:

    What McCain meant to say was that ‘Palin knows more about energy than any conservative who is pushing her to be vice president of the United States of America.’ That might be a true statement.

  2. Ronald says:

    What to do with this election? Some want to vote for John McCain as President for the protection and security of the United States. Some want Obama because of the economy, McCain’s age, McCain’s VP choice, etc. Why not vote for both?

    How about a whisper campaign that John McCain should be Secretary of Defense and that President Obama would nominate him to that position?

    That way, McCain would be able to do what his strength is, follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell. . . ah, fight the war in Afghanistan which he says he knows how to win, (why he doesn’t let the Pentagon know or why doesn’t the Pentagon just ask him is a good question.) Those people who would vote for McCain because of his percieved ability to protect and defend the United States, but are reluctant because of his negatives, like age, might vote Obama if they thought that McCain would still be in the national defense decision loop.

    The other campaign would say that McCain would select Obama to be his Secretary of community organizing, (har, har) but really Obama should be able to survive that.

  3. Jeff Green says:

    This harkens me back to the days of “Good job Brownie!” Hurrican Katrina come to mind.

    Let’s see John McCain is not like the Bush Administration. I just might agree with that assessment. Yes it is worse than the Bush Administration.

    I for one am taking energy seriously and if this administration gets in, it will be the Keystone Cops and a nightmare all rooled into one.

    Highly highly highly not ready for prime time.

  4. Bob Wallace says:

    The problem is that a whispering campaign that Obama might appoint McCain as Sec of Def would be that Obama would lose significant support.

    He would find his judgment questioned in the same way McCain’s took a serious hit when he picked Palin.

    The problem that McCain and other Republicans have with renewables, I suspect, is that they have closed their ears. Renewables are issues that belong to the Left, to the enemy, and must be dismissed.

    It’s not a problem solving attitude that drives some politicians, but a “make our side win” attitude.

    I really doubt that McCain could sit down and describe with any degree of accuracy where we are at the moment with the installation of wind turbines.

    I doubt that he understands that almost all of us could be driving BEVs if we had affordable batteries.

  5. Rick C says:

    “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.” – Sarah Palin

    Huh?

  6. Rick C says:

    “Oil (of coal), of course, is a fungible commodity and they don’t flag, ya know, the molecules where, where it’s going to where it’s not but and in the, in the sense of the Congress today they know our very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So I believe that what Congress is going to do also is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here, it’s gotta flow into our domestic markets first.” – Sarah Palin

    Huh, again?

  7. john says:

    Ronald:

    In what world is John McCain good for national security? Oh, yeah, the one that sings Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb,Bomb Iran. That world.

    Or the one that thinks every answer is a military one.

    Or the one that thinks Iraq had anything to do with 911 or al Qaeda.

    Or the one that thinks the surge worked (hint: it didn’t; there were 18 benchmarks and only 4 were realized, and the vaunted decrease in violence was caused by 1) the Awakening — i.e. paying Sunnis cash to back us, 2) ethnic cleansing the the neighborhoods, and last and very least 3) more troops on the ground.

    Why not just show what an oaf and fool McCain is, rather than puting him in charge of anything?

    PS. McCain doesn’t appear to know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

    And Palin? Well …. scary. an empty vessel into which whackhobs can our their most horrible nightmares into and call them dreams.