THE BLOG
11/22/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Putting Country First?

The McCain-Palin ticket keeps getting more entangled while trying to explain its energy policy. "Energy independence" was the big deal -- hence "drill, baby, drill" and John McCain's abandonment of his long-standing opposition to offshore oil drilling. Sarah Palin in her VP debate lamented that "it's a nonsensical position that we are in when we have domestic supplies of energy all over this great land. And East Coast politicians who don't allow energy-producing states like Alaska to produce these, to tap into them, and instead we're relying on foreign countries to produce for us."

Now it turns out that Palin has actively worked to ensure that liquid natural gas (LNG) produced from public lands in Alaska doesn't come to the U.S. but instead gets shipped to Asia for higher oil-industry profits. Alaska's first natural gas export facility is the Kenai LNG terminal. This summer, the Department of Energy, at Palin's urging, extended the facility's permission to export its gas supplies to Japan from 2009 to 2011. This was done even though there's now the capability to deliver Alaskan gas to California pipelines. Palin did make sure that Alaska got its share of the gas before exports started -- but she cheerfully and eagerly threw the rest of the U.S. away -- so much for "putting country first." The Kenai facility exports enough gas to reduce U.S. imports of LNG from places like Nigeria and Algeria by one-seventh!

And her cheerleading for this "export first" policy makes it clear that she's been lying and not just confused in the comments she's made on the campaign trail. Here"s what Palin told Wolf Blitzer back in September (Warning: This quote is almost incomprehensible, but not her final, unequivocal, backing of export bans.):

"Oil and coal? Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where it's not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first," Palin said. "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 that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It's got to flow into our domestic markets first." [emphasis mine]

Then on October 9, asked by a questioner in Waukesha, WI, about the issue, Palin said,  "No. It's not 75 percent of our oil being exported. In fact," she added, "Congress is pretty strict on, um, export bans of oil and gas especially.... It's not a huge portion of any domestic supply being exported."

The media jumped on Palin's apparent confusion about oil and gas exports -- her seeming to suggest that there was a ban on exports of oil from Alaska when there isn't. But it's pretty clear that Palin was actually trying to cover her tracks and avoid admitting not only that there are exports but also that she has actively lobbied to have all of Alaska's natural gas exports go to Asia instead of to American markets.

What's also  been overlooked is that Palin's proposed natural gas pipeline -- the one she claims will provide Alaskan natural gas to the American Midwest -- is actually designed so that it could easily end up servicing Canada's burgeoning and gas-gobbling tar-sands industry. Indeed, former Alaska Governor Wally Hickel has told the Alaskan legislature that "the motivation for a Canadian line is not to get Alaska gas to America after all. The oil producers want to use our gas to heat up the Alberta tar sands to produce crude oil, an environmental disaster in the making."

In this case, instead of getting clean gas from Alaska, the U.S. will end up competing with other countries for dirty tar-sands oil from Canada. And Palin's record strongly suggests that as McCain's energy czar she would put Alaska first, the oil industry second, and America last.

Paid for by Sierra Club Political Committee, www.sierraclub.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.