Analysis: Palin could complicate energy debate
Saturday, August 30, 2008
If Democrats hoped to portray John McCain as captive to the oil industry, their task became more complicated with his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate.
She is an ardent advocate for more drilling _ off Alaska, off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the off-limits Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yet she also not shied from confronting Exxon Mobil, BP and ConocoPhillips.
As the presidential campaign moves into high gear, McCain and Democratic nominee Barack Obama will duel over two overriding energy issues: whether to expand offshore oil drilling into areas long off-limits and whether to impose new taxes on oil companies enjoying tens of billions of dollars in windfall profits.
Palin is a popular governor in a state that for decades has been closely tied to oil. She may be a political novice, but she is hardly a newcomer when it comes to these two issues. Her emergence as McCain’s No. 2 and possibly the next vice president could shift the campaign’s energy debate.
When it comes to the oil industry is Palin friend or foe?
The answer may not be black or white but shades of gray.
“No one is closer to the oil industry than Governor Palin,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club in comments reflecting the views of a cross section of environmental activists. They cite her eagerness to embrace expanded offshore oil development, her lawsuit against further protection of polar bears so as not to hinder oil drilling in Alaska’s ice-filled waters and her ardent support to allow oil companies into the Alaska wildlife refuge.
Drilling in the refuge’s sliver of coastal tundra in northeastern Alaska _ an area viewed by environmentalists as a treasured wild place that also harbors 11 billion barrels of oil _ was believed to have been a dead issue. McCain opposes drilling there, as does Obama.
But that too might be changing.
The selection of Palin places the refuge’s “energy production front and center in the policy debate once again,” maintains Brian Kennedy, senior vice president of the Institute for Energy Research. The group has pushed for increased domestic oil production and has some oil companies among its sponsors.
While McCain has said he hasn’t changed his mind about drilling there, he also has said that he is willing to re-examine the issue.
When it comes to taxing oil companies, Palin’s selection might well be a doubled-edged knife for the McCain campaign.
Shortly after becoming governor in 2006, she pushed new oil taxes through the Alaska Legislature, saying the taxes proposed by her predecessor, Frank Murkowski, were too favorable to the oil companies. She was bucking Exxon Mobil, BP PLC and ConocoPhillips, which strongly opposed the legislation.
The new tax brought in an estimated $6 billion in the last budget year, bulging Alaska’s treasury with an expected surplus of as much as $9 billion. Thst enabled Palin to push a second initiative _ giving each Alaskan $1,200 to help them cope with high energy costs.
Obama has proposed taxing the windfall profits of the five biggest oil companies and giving people $1,000 to pay for high energy costs. Palin called such financial help “a tool that must be on the table” although she differs with Obama on where the money’s source.
Like McCain, Palin says a national windfall profits tax on oil companies will hinder domestic energy production. Democrats are expected to be quick to ask: If it’s good for Alaska, why isn’t it good for the country?
But Palin has bucked oil companies in other ways. She pushed for more competition for the construction of a $26 billion pipeline to bring natural gas from the North Slope to the lower 48 states by favoring the TransCanada pipeline project, backed by independent companies over one proposed by BP and ConocoPhillips. She has tangled with Exxon Mobil and other oil companies over their reluctance to develop gas fields on state land.
Republicans hope that will neutralize claims that the McCain ticket is too cozy with the oil industry and shift more of the energy debate away from oil taxes to the need for expanded offshore drilling and generally more domestic energy production _ issues on which Palin has been outspoken.
Don’t expect the Obama campaign, not to mention many of the environmentalists activists, to cooperate.
“Big Oil extended its reach into the campaign of John McCain,” said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America, a federation of state-based environmental groups, after Palin’s selection became known.
Mark Hellenthal, a GOP pollster in Alaska sees it differently. In the state “she’s viewed … as almost anti-oil. She’s probably pro-oil from a national perspective, but she’s not in the pocket of Big Oil. She’s fought them at every step.”
On the Net:
Governor’s office: http://gov.state.ak.us/
EDITOR’S NOTE _ H. Josef Hebert has covered energy and environmental issues for The Associated Press since 1990. AP writer Steve Quinn in Juneau contributed to this report.
First, Governor Palin is not merely, as Jay describes her, “all-American”, but hyper-American. What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew? As an immigrant, I’m not saying I came to the United States purely to meet chicks like that, but it was certainly high on my list of priorities. And for the gun-totin’ Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who’s done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of “community organizer” and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy….
Third, real people don’t define “experience” as appearing on unwatched Sunday-morning talk shows every week for 35 years and having been around long enough to have got both the War on Terror and the Cold War wrong. (On the first point, at the Gun Owners of New Hampshire dinner in the 2000 campaign, I remember Orrin Hatch telling me sadly that he was stunned to discover how few Granite State voters knew who he was.) Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are more or less the same age, but Governor Palin has run a state and a town and a commercial fishing operation, whereas (to reprise a famous line on the Rev Jackson) Senator Obama ain’t run nothin’ but his mouth. She’s done the stuff he’s merely a poseur about. Post-partisan? She took on her own party’s corrupt political culture directly while Obama was sucking up to Wright and Ayers and being just another get-along Chicago machine pol (see his campaign’s thuggish attempt to throttle Stanley Kurtz and Milt Rosenberg on WGN the other night).
Two quick examples of the media’s desire to characterize here as a traitor to her political patrons.
A decade later, the nickname [Sarah Barracuda] resurfaced when she was a 28-year-old political novice on the Wasilla City Council. She turned on a veteran council member who had coaxed her to run for office, blocking a bill that would have steered business to his garbage-hauling firm.The moniker was revived once again in 2003, when Alaska’s governor, whom she would later unseat, appointed her to a state oil-and-gas commission. As a brand-new member, she challenged the ethics of the panel’s leader, the chairman of state’s Republican Party, forcing him ultimately to resign.
Her swift ascent to the governorship, and now to a vice presidential nomination, is regarded by some in Alaska as a case of fortunate timing, for someone who possesses the right outsider’s tactics at the right political moment. Others cite driving ambition and instinctive opportunism — a willingness to turn on political patrons to get ahead.
Obama, of course, had as his political patron and chief fundraiser, Tony Rezko-a man who was just convicted in a case involving political corruption (“pay to play”).
Palin saw corruption and fought the establishment to end it; Barack Obama was a creature of corruption and sought to strengthen it.
Did he “turn on” his political patrons? No, despite their corruption that robbed and weakened the citizens of Illinois? No..he bolstered them.
Sarah Palin shines, and ignites the comedic passions of Late, Late night comedian Craig Ferguson. How can Joe Biden compete in appeal? Worse for the Democrats, she is fresher, more accomplished and more genuine than Barack Obama.
Hat tip Dennis Sevakis
As John McCain has shocked pretty much everybody with his pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, it’s important to prepare for the attacks on her that will be launched, starting this afternoon, by the Democrats and the media. For attack they will, relentlessly. And they’ll start with these three things:
JUNEAU, Alaska – Gov. Sarah Palin on Wednesday said at least two dozens calls were made from her staff members to Department of Public Safety officials questioning the employment of a trooper who went through a messy divorce with Palin’s sister.But Palin maintained none was done at her direction, a claim backed up by one administration member caught on tape.
…The Palins have accused Wooten of drunken driving, illegal hunting and firing a Taser at his 11-year-old stepson, Palin’s nephew. These allegations led to an internal investigation, which occurred before she ran for governor.Todd Palin has said the family was concerned about the governor’s safety, claiming Wooten threatened to kill Sarah Palin’s father and made vague threats to her. Todd Palin has said he took concerns about Wooten directly to Monegan.
Grimes suspended Wooten for 10 days. He also was punished for illegally shooting a moose and using a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson. The trooper admitted to using the Taser on his stepson in a “training capacity” and said he shot a moose on his wife’s tag, but didn’t think the act was illegal.…Wall’s investigation did find that Wooten threatened Palin’s sister, Molly McCann, with shooting her father if he hired a lawyer to represent her. Wooten denied making the statement, but Palin, McCann and Palin’s son all confirmed that he did.Wall said the act wasn’t a crime because Palin’s father was not present when Wooten made the statement.