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Election 2008: Sarah Palin on Energy and the Environment

Environmental Record of U.S. Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin


Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News/Getty Images
When John McCain chose first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate, he pushed his presidential campaign farther to the right on several key energy and environmental issues—from drilling for oil in America’s coastal waters and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to eliminating federal protection for polar bears and addressing the problem of global warming.

At 44, Palin provides a youthful counterpoint to her 72-year-old running mate, John McCain. She is also extremely conservative. Palin opposes a woman’s right to choose, for example, and believes the concept of “intelligent design” should be taught in schools alongside the theory of evolution.

Palin worked as a television broadcaster before entering politics and becoming mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the small Anchorage suburb (fewer than 9,000 residents) where she grew up. A former Miss Wasilla and mother of five, Palin is a charismatic politician who has earned a reputation for integrity, despite a couple of unresolved political scandals that have cast a shadow over her short term as governor.

She also has a reputation as a workaholic. Palin continues to display the same focus and intensity that helped her lead her underdog high school basketball team to a state championship and earned her the nickname “Sarah Barracuda.”

Palin on Global Warming and Renewable Energy
Palin acknowledges the reality of climate change and its potential catastrophic effects on Alaska and other parts of the world, but she remains skeptical about any link between human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

Palin led Alaska to file suit against the U.S. Interior Department to remove polar bears from the endangered species list, after the bears were listed as “threatened” because of the risk to their habitat and survival from global warming. According to Palin, the decision to protect polar bears “was not based on the best scientific and commercial data available.”

In September 2007, Palin exercised her authority as governor of Alaska to establish the Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, which is charged with developing a state climate change strategy, recommending policies to guide Alaska’s mitigation and adaptation efforts, and exploring ways to promote the development of renewable energy sources. And in May 2008, Palin signed a bill to spend $250 million over five years on renewable energy power plants that will run on solar, wind, hydroelectric and natural gas.

In an August 2008 newspaper interview, Palin said "alternative energy solutions are far from imminent and would require more than 10 years to develop." Ironically, developing the new domestic oil resources Palin advocates would take at least that long or longer, and would lead to more greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming from a finite fuel source instead of the clean, renewable energy that alternative solutions would provide.

Quoting Sarah Palin: “A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute [global warming] to being man-made.”

Palin on Offshore Oil Drilling
Palin wants to see more offshore oil drilling along America’s coastlines, a position she has held for a long time, in contrast to McCain, who only embraced offshore drilling in Summer 2008, after previously opposing it for many years.

Palin argues that increasing U.S. oil production with more offshore drilling will help the United States become energy independent and lower gasoline prices for consumers, even though the U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that it would take nearly two decades for offshore drilling to have any effect on gas prices—and even then would lower prices by only a few pennies.

Quoting Sarah Palin: “I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can't drill our way out of our problem or that more supply won't ultimately affect prices. Of course it will affect prices.”

Palin on ANWR
Palin has been pushing hard to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling, which puts her at odds with McCain, who is still opposed to drilling in ANWR.

Part of Palin’s argument in favor of drilling in ANWR is that only 1.5 million acres (about 8 percent) of the refuge would be open to exploration initially, and only 2,000 acres would be affected by long-term production operations if a major oil deposit were discovered--an argument environmentalists find unpersuasive.

Quoting Sarah Palin: “I get frustrated with folks from outside Alaska who come up and say, ‘You shouldn't develop your resources.’”

Palin on Other Oil and Gas Issues
Palin is generally considered a champion of the oil and gas industry. To some degree, that comes with the territory in Alaska politics, where oil and gas resources account for a lot of jobs and a big slice of state revenue. One of those jobs belongs to Palin’s husband, Todd, a longtime BP (formerly British Petroleum) oil field employee.

In August 2008, Palin signed a bill awarding TransCanada Pipelines the license to build a $30 billion pipeline, which will transport natural gas from a new treatment plant on Alaska’s North Slope to other states.

On August 25, 2008, Palin signed a bill suspending Alaska’s gasoline, marine fuel and aviation fuel taxes until Aug. 31, 2009.

Palin opposed an Obama-proposed windfall-profits tax, saying it would discourage oil companies from investing in new projects. Yet, as governor, she persuaded the legislature to implement a similar tax that gave Alaska a larger percentage of oil company revenue, and she is using royalties from oil-and-natural gas production to give all state residents a one-time payment of $1,200 to defray their energy costs.

Palin also chairs the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multi-state panel "that promotes the conservation and efficient recovery of domestic oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment."

Quoting Sarah Palin: “When I look every day, the big oil company's building is right out there next to me, and it's quite a reminder that we should have mutually beneficial relationships with the oil industry.”

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