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Posted at 6:31 PM ET, 10/29/2008

Palin and the Maybe Pipeline

By Michael Dobbs


Palin in Ohio, October 29, 2008.

"We're building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline -- which is North America's largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever -- to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets."
--Sarah Palin, Vice Presidential Debate, October 2, 2008

"That pipeline will be a lifeline -- freeing us from debt, dependence, and the influence of foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart."
--Sarah Palin, Toledo, Ohio, October 29, 2008

In a major speech Wednesday on how to achieve energy independence, Sarah Palin drew attention once again to a huge natural gas pipeline project that will connect Alaska with the Lower 48. The pipeline has been under discussion for more than three decades -- but work has not yet begun and there is still no guarantee that it will ever be built. So what exactly has been accomplished during the two years Palin has served as governor of Alaska?

The Facts

Palin persuaded the Alaska legislature to authorize a Canadian company to secure the necessary financing and permits for a 1,715 mile pipeline from the North Slope gas fields to the Canadian pipeline network. Under the deal, which received final approval in August, the state will provide up to $500 million to Calgary-based TransCanada Corp to coordinate the securing of permits, customers, and financing for the pipeline. TransCanada would like to complete construction on a pipeline by 2018.

By granting the license to a Canadian company, Palin was attempting to perform an end-run around the companies that actually control the 35 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves on the North Slope: BP, Conoco and Exxon Mobil. She complained that the big oil companies were demanding too high a price for their participation in the pipeline project, and that her plan will expose them to "free-market competition."

The problem with this narrative, says University of Alaska Economics professor Douglas Reynolds, is that the pipeline cannot be built without the cooperation of the companies who control the North Slope oil. These companies can refuse to sign off on the pipeline construction project coordinated by TransCanada and remain free to organize their own alternative project. Financing for either project will almost certainly depend on some kind of barter agreement between Alaska and the big oil producers.

Contrary to claims by Palin and her supporters, the latest developments do not guarantee that the pipeline will actually be built. The Anchorage Daily News called those claims "incorrect" in its coverage of the
August 2 Senate vote
approving the granting of the license to TransCanada.

It is therefore inaccurate for John McCain to claim, as he has done at various times on the campaign trail, that his running mate "negotiated a $40 billion natural gas pipeline that will bring clean energy to the Lower 48." Both the financing and the actual construction terms for the project remain to be negotiated.

"Of course Palin's inflating what she actually achieved here," said Reynolds. "You betcha."

Even if the pipeline is actually built, and the natural gas comes on stream, it will only make a modest dent in U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources. If all goes according to plan, the pipeline could deliver around 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day -- a relatively small portion of the 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas presently consumed in the United States.

The Pinocchio Test

Both Palin and McCain have exaggerated the Alaska governor's accomplishment in launching a multibillion dollar pipeline project that will reduce America's dependence on foreign energy sources. They talk about the project as if it is already underway, when it has yet to be negotiated and nobody knows how much it will actually cost.

(About our rating scale).

By Michael Dobbs  | October 29, 2008; 6:31 PM ET
Categories:  2 Pinocchios, Candidate Watch, Economy  
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Next: John McCain's 'Trick or Treat'?

Comments

How much do we really know about Sarah Palin? I call on the press to finally investigate Palin's belief that dinosaurs and humans walked the earth together 6000 years ago. We can't let a wacko like this into the White House.

Posted by: GeorgeSanders | October 29, 2008 8:07 PM | Report abuse

What's odd is that this did not peg the Pinocchio scale. McCain lied about her involvement. She also lied about it. And worse, she presents herself as an expert on energy policy yet claims that this pipeline will somehow free us from dependence on foreign energy when it won't even cover the increase in demand between now and when it might go online ??? All whoppers intended to mislead. Easily 4 Pinocchios.

Posted by: tommyg15 | October 29, 2008 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Once again, both Sarah Palin and John McCain prove their "credibility". It's an embarassment that they are even in CONSIDERATION for running this country.

Posted by: believer1 | October 29, 2008 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Bush gave us a figure of a few billion when talking about the war in Iraq and we heard "Mission Accomplished". This pipeline will cost us as much, if not more than the war. Not only that, but if McSame and Palin think the American worker is the best in the world, why did Palin contract the work out to Canadian companies.

McSame has no idea of what real Americans are going through; he's never been there; he's an elitist pig.

Posted by: camera_eye_11 | October 29, 2008 9:09 PM | Report abuse

As usual, It seems like the FactChecker is going light on the McCain/Palin Pinocchios.

I know you want to avoid the impression of "media bias", but your worries about public opinion shouldn't bear on the truth.

P.S. Good work on requiring sign-in. The comments on this blog were a mess.

Posted by: zosima | October 29, 2008 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Right wingers keep talking about how they think Obama has a bunch of nasty secrets, but how about this nasty secret?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/28/news-orgs-investigate-pos_n_138449.html

Apparently McCain killed a person in a car accident and the Navy refuses to release the records. Vehicular manslaughter sure seems like an issue that might bear on our opinion of McCain.

I trust you right-wingnuts are just as worried about this skeleton in McCain's closet, yes?

Posted by: zosima | October 30, 2008 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Fact Checker found someone in academia willing to mock Palin ("you betcha") and make a specious claim against her on the facts.

Big Oil wanted a cozy deal courtesy taxpayers, and Gov. Palin said no.

"Negotiating a pipeline" project is not supposed to be the same thing as guaranteeing that it will be built or financed, or that a third party (Big Oil) won't be involved. Yet that and an obviously biased source's opinion appear to be the basis for the second pinocchio.

4.5 units of natural gas out of 60, that's a SIGNIFICANT slice of the nation's current usage. No one pipeline, nuke plant, wind farm, or oil well is alone going to solve the nation's energy problems, and it's ridiculous of the Fact Checker to imply that it could.

Many complaints about Palin center on the belief that she's in the pocket of Big Oil. This column counters those claims, which Fact Checker neglects to mention. Palin is a legitamite maverick, which is why McCain chose her, tedious as she was at repeating that fact in her debate with Biden.

A poor job by the Fact Checker this time.

Posted by: angrydoug1 | October 30, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Maverick Personality Disorder:

http://tinyurl.com/5ggtte

Posted by: caraprado1 | October 30, 2008 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Angrydoug:

If you read above you will see her exact quote: "We are building..."(not negotiating, as you state) when, in fact, she is not building. Under discussion for more than 3 decades???? Unlikely it will ever happen - unless Obama becomes President!

Posted by: lkbbm | October 30, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

George: we may not know much about Palin, but how much do we know about Obama because he never talks about his past except when it comes to his childhood. No one knew of Obama until he starting running for the Presidency and so far I really dislike what I hear about him. Sure he is a great speaker of words and knows how to rally his troops, but I feel that is as far as it goes. How long was he a Senator? 6 months and now running for President. At least Palin was the Gov. for almost 2 years and probably has more experience then Obama, but she is running for VP and not President.
I hope Obama does win because then all of you that support him will realize how stupid you people really are once he starts breaking all the promises that he continually makes. God help us all because Obama will change this country on his beliefs rather then ours. Socialism is near!

Posted by: jumland | October 30, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

It seems the problem is real time reporting....Instead of checking statements before reporting it as news the media (TV & Radio) pundits began to speak of the statements as fact.....Spin nulify truth....these airwaves are public property and there should be test that require news agency to verify the accuracy of what their reporting and if they are found to be spinning (letting the skunk out of the bag and then saying the skunk has not been there) then there license to use the airwave should be revoked and they lose what fees they have paid.....now this test should not apply if the program is rated as entertainment.....only opinion/commentary base program should be held to the highest degree of accuracy/

Posted by: dnmni4142 | October 30, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

What?! Sista Sayra exaggeratin'. You medya eeleets must be outa yo collective minds. And with the elexion only 5 (count 'em) five days away. You should be ashamed of yaselfs.

Posted by: boesc | October 30, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

lkbbm, approval of permits of any large government construction project is a significant part of the project. It's not much of a stretch to call it "building." I was allowing Fact Checker to give one pinocchio; that would fit because Palin got a bit ahead of herself.

Denied permits and similar red tape is why the nation has too few oil refineries and nuclear power plants, which could mitigate the nation's energy problems. More suffocating regulation is what Obama will bring, which is change we shouldn't believe in or bother with.

Obama's 30-minute ad involved a significant pitch for how he's going to solve the nation's energy problems, but didn't even mention nuclear, which tells you he's not serious. Fact Checker could take a look at those claims but tends to look away from Obama's whoppers.

Posted by: angrydoug1 | October 30, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Once again, an out-and-out known, major, dishonest lie by a principal in the McCain-Palin team -- who has personal knowledge of the facts -- gets rated at only two Pinocchios, the same as Obama got when he misstated the name of the concentration camp his aging uncle liberated 60 years ago.

What has also been left unstated, and is therefore a major lie by omission, is that it is quite unlikely that much of the natural gas purported to be transmitted via this pipeline will actually end up in the Lower 48.

Way to go, Dobbsie. Doin' a heck of a job, as usual.

Posted by: edallan | October 30, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The US consumes 25% of all the oil extracted annually in the world yet it accounts for only 4% of the proven reserves (and that includes Alaska). Could anyone explain to me how drilling more would ever solve our energy dependence? If we somehow magically extracted all of our oil it would only last for 2 years! Then what?
70% of the petroleum we consume is used as engine fuel (cars, trucks, planes). The only way we can end our dependence on foreign oil is by developing alternative sources of propulsion (electric cars that is).
All this "drill, baby, drill" business is pure drivel. Coming from the mouth of a woman who does not believe in human impact on the climate change it is doubly hysterical.
It is beyond me how ANYONE at all can take that nutjob seriously.

Posted by: ExUnguiLeonem | October 30, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Whether we are arguing over semantics here, "Negotiated" vs. "Building" the true test of this pipeline is whether all those billions of cubic feet of natural gas will solely go to use for homes in America. even though taxpayers will pay for that pipeline. I strongly doubt that Sarah Palin will impose that restriction on oil companies because that would be socialist and unAmerican. Oh gimme a break

Posted by: TKDuff | October 30, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The press has been to quiet on this false pipeline claim of McCain and Palin.

-She rigged the bids
-sent the contract out of the country

and most likely it will never be built.

McCain and palin are as phony as you can get.

I have already voted Obama and am now taking neighbors to the polls to vote.

Americans bless America, God take Sarah back to Alaska.

Posted by: COWENS99 | October 30, 2008 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Palin has demonstrated that all she is capable of doing is trash talking Obama and inflating her own accomplishments (or lack thereof, which is why she generally sticks to just attacking Obama). The McCain campaign is using her to throw mud at Obama because they don't have any solutions for our many problems to talk about. Oh, and she hasn't explained her abuse of power in the Troopergate investigation, use of state taxpayer money for her kids travel expenses, or released her medical records. This is the best the GOP can do? Why would anyone trust her, let alone consider her an authority worthy of office?

Posted by: erin5 | October 31, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

It seemed like there was some confusion about Obama's record above. Obama has been a senator for 4 years and was a state senator for 8. So he had 12 years of experience as an elected official(and a lot more as a lawyer/manager).

When you look at the numbers it becomes clear that the actual number is a lot larger than people have made it out to be.

Posted by: zosima | October 31, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

It seems to myself an outsider of American politics that the people that run each and every country in the free world usually get their by telling bigger and more exaggerated lies about their opponents.
Someone once said that politics was a dirty business and now I believe them.

Posted by: billythefish | October 31, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

The media seems to have been covering for Biden for some time. While news stories still talk about Dan Quayle’s spelling mistake 18 years later, there has been almost no news coverage of Biden’s numerous wacky statements. What if Quayle had said something similar to Biden’s recent statement that, "When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'" A neat trick given that Herbert Hoover was president in 1929 and no one was watching television.

It might not fit the simple template for a 36-year veteran of the Senate to not understand what vice presidents do (after all, eight vice presidents have served with him), but Biden knew less about this than the political outsider, Sarah Palin. Given that they are running to be vice president, why didn’t that story dominate the news coverage after the debate?
-- Finally, an amusing point as evidence that Biden is just one of the people he pointed to, inviting anyone to have a beer with him at "Katie's Restaurant" in Wilmington, Del. Unfortunately, people will have a hard time taking him up on his offer, since the restaurant hasn't had that name for probably 15 years.

Posted by: lucygirl1 | November 1, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

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