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Sarah Palin's Supposed Energy Expertise Backfires. Again.

May 24, 2010

During the 2008 campaign, John McCain said of his running mate Sarah Palin, "She knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America." As it turns out, not so much. The half-term Alaska Governor literally had no idea how much energy her state produced and suffered from selective amnesia over the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill that devastated her coastlines. Now, after Palin accused President Obama of being in bed with big oil, even the Wall Street Journal took her to task for getting it comically wrong.
Taking a hiatus from her "drill, baby drill" cheerleading, Palin on Sunday kept up her full court press on President Obama. No doubt, she insisted, the "lamestream media" would have blasted oilmen George W. Bush and Dick Cheney if the BP disaster happened on their watch:

"I don't know why the question isn't asked by the mainstream media and by others if there's any connection with the contributions made to president Obama and his administration and the support by the oil companies to the administration," she told Fox News Sunday...
Palin suggested this close relationship explained why Obama was, "taking so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico."

Sadly for Palin, for years the Republican Party has been drilling directly into the bank accounts of the American oil and gas industry. As the reliably Republican Wall Street Journal documented Sunday:

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Republicans receive far more campaign money from the oil and gas industry than do Democrats.
So far in 2010, the oil and gas industries have contributed $12.8 million to all candidates, with 71% of that money going to Republicans. During the 2008 election cycle, 77% of the industry's $35.6 million in contributions went to Republicans, and in the 2008 presidential contest, Republican candidate Sen. John McCain received more than twice as much money from the oil and gas industries as Obama: McCain collected $2.4 million; Obama, $898,000.
This is a decades-long trend, the center says: Since 1990, oil and gas companies have donated $238.7 million to candidates and parties, with 75% of the money going to Republicans.

As it turns out, Palin's know-nothingness on energy issues has been on display from almost the moment she stepped on the national stage.
As Palin made clear in a calamitous appearance with ABC's Charles Gibson in September 2008, rumors of her energy savvy were much exaggerated. As ThinkProgress among others noted, Palin trotted her petro-state's oil production as proof of her national security credentials:

"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."

Sadly for Sarah Palin, her 20% figure, in the words of non-partisan FactCheck.org, is "not true, not even close." FactCheck's analysis showed that Palin's basic ignorance of the American energy market is fundamental - and inescapable:

Alaska did produce 14 percent of all the oil from U.S. wells last year, but that's a far cry from all the "energy" produced in the U.S.
Alaska's share of domestic energy production was 3.5 percent, according to the official figures kept by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
And if by "supply" Palin meant all the energy consumed in the U.S., and not just produced here, then Alaska's production accounted for only 2.4 percent.

If nothing else, John McCain and Sarah Palin did provide stunning display of synchronized stupidity when it comes to U.S. energy production. As it turns out, McCain offered ABC's Gibson the same bogus number that fall:

"Well, I think Americans are going to be very, very, very pleased. This is a very dynamic person. [Palin's] been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20 percent of America's energy supply."

As the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and onto the front pages, Palin was again quick to deploy her expertise as an energy dullard by writing "Domestic Drilling, Why We Can Still Believe."
That faith-based response appeared on Facebook just a day after Palin tweeted Gulf Coast residents, "Our prayers r w/u." For her, she insisted, the environmental disaster is personal:

As an Alaskan, I can speak from the heart about the tragedy of an oil spill. For as long as I live, I will never forget the day the Exxon-Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and millions of gallons of North Slope crude poured into the waters of our beautiful Prince William Sound...
We also filed a Friend-of-the-Court brief against Exxon's interests for its decades-old responsibility to compensate Alaskans affected by the Valdez spill, and I took other actions "against" the industry which ultimately helped hold it accountable.

Alas, Sarah Palin can speak from the heart but not from the head. During the 2008 campaign, she failed to remember Alaska's Exxon Valdez case when asked by Katie Couric about Supreme Court decisions with which she disagreed. And as Reuters documented in November 2009, "Palin's Exxon Valdez Account Draws Guffaws." In her book, Palin not only portraying the plaintiffs' defeat before the Supreme Court in 2008 as a victory, but pompously inflated her role in it:

"That is the most cockamamie bullshit," said Dave Oesting of Anchorage, lead plaintiff attorney in the private litigants' civil case against Exxon and its successor, Exxon Mobil Corp. "She didn't have a damn thing to do with it, and she didn't know what it was about."
While the Supreme Court in its June 25, 2008 decision did uphold the right of the plaintiffs to receive some punitive damages, it slashed the award dramatically. The Supreme Court ordered that punitive damages be no more than $507.5 million, down from the $2.5 billion ordered by a U.S. appeals court and the jury's original verdict of $5 billion.

As Riki Ott, an environmental activist and longtime commercial fisherman from the Prince William Sound town of Cordova, put it, "It's a disgrace to intellectual honesty to call 10 cents on the dollar a win for Alaskans."
When it comes to energy, Sarah Palin's supposed expertise comes not from what she knows, but what she believes. And what she believes in, apparently, is a beneficent God who will bless the American energy sector.
Years before she thanked "Prayer Warriors" for "your prayer shield [which] allows me and others to go forth," Sarah Palin asked Alaskans to pray for her multibillion dollar natural gas pipeline. then Governor Palin told students at the School of Ministry at the Wasilla Assembly of God, I can do my job there in developing our natural resources...But really all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God," adding:

"God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that."

So it came as no surprise when Palin ended her Facebook free-association on the BP nightmare with a call-out to the Almighty. "Our prayers" she wrote, "go up for a successful recovery."
Of course, what Sarah Palin really needs from the Lord is a quick primer on energy.

3 comments on “Sarah Palin's Supposed Energy Expertise Backfires. Again.”

  1. Excellent overview. The only part missing is where she has no idea that the oil extracted in the US is NOT OURS but is sold on the world market so if she thinks we should drill baby drill for ourselves, she is advocating the takeover of the oil industry, Nationalization. SOCIALISM.


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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