John McCain's vice presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, made her big debut at the GOP National Convention Wednesday, when she accepted her party's nomination with a high-profile speech.
While her focus was on boosting McCain's reform credentials, downplaying Democrat Barack Obama's experience, and focusing as often as possible on national security, she touched on some energy and environmental issues.
Environmentalists have been critical, to say the least, of Palin's record. She supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (McCain has not), opposes listing the polar bear as a threatened species (as the Bush Administration has done) and has said she doesn't believe humans are responsible for contributing to global warming (contrary to virtually every credible scientist on Earth).
In her speech Wednesday, she spent roughly 15% of her words on energy issues. Here's a look at some of what she said:
"I suspended the state fuel tax."
A reference to McCain's campaign pledge to suspend the federal gas tax during the summer driving season, Palin referenced her state-level initiative. Experts have roundly criticized this proposal as nothing more than pandering, since it would do little to affect prices and would obscure the silver lining in high energy prices: investments in greater efficiency, like smaller more fuel efficient cars.
"Despite fierce opposition from oil company lobbyists, who kind of liked things the way they were, we broke their monopoly on power and resources."
Seeking to highlight heself as a reform-minded maverick, she highlighted how oil companies have paid more to fund Alaska's government, and fund taxpayer rebates, under her governorship. In that, she aligns herself somewhat more with Democrats, who have argued for windfall profit taxes on oil companies, but the statement also shows how her vision of government is closely tied to the health of oil companies, and the nation's continued reliance on oil.
"We began a nearly $40 billion dollar natural gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence. That pipeline, when the last section is laid and its valves are opened, will lead America one step farther away from dependence on dangerous foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart."
Both McCain and Obama have expressed support for this project.
"The stakes for our nation could not be higher. When a hurricane strikes in the Gulf of Mexico, this country should not be so dependent on imported oil that we are forced to draw from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And families cannot throw away more and more of their paychecks on gas and heating oil. With Russia wanting to control a vital pipeline in the Caucasus, and to divide and intimidate our European allies by using energy as a weapon, we cannot leave ourselves at the mercy of foreign suppliers. To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly a fifth of world energy supplies ... or that terrorists might strike again at the Abqaiq facility in Saudi Arabia ... or that Venezuela might shut off its oil deliveries ... we Americans need to produce more of our own oil and gas. And take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska: we've got lots of both."
Palin highlights the national security implications of the nation's dependence on foreign oil, something that both Democrats and Republicans are keen to do. But with Palin, the focus of energy independence is on drilling for more domestic oil and gas, rather than investing in new alternative energy technology, as Obama proposes as the center of his energy plan. Energy independence can be achieved without tackling the global warming problem or confronting the likelihood that oil will only cost more and more over time as world demand increases beyond world supply. A good argument can be made that a sounder economic and national security outlook lies with alternative fuels, and not oil -- whether it comes from U.S. soil or not.
Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems - as if we all didn't know that already."
Palin has evidently known this for only a month or so. In a July interview with Investor's Business Daily, a conservative pro-business publication, she said "I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can't drill our way out of our problem." Experts have said that increased offshore drilling would have a small affect on gasoline prices, at best, and at best only several years down the road, when oil prices in general are expected to be higher due to increasing demand around the world, particularly in China and other developing countries.
"The fact that drilling won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all. Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we're going to lay more pipelines ... build more new-clear* plants ... create jobs with clean coal ... and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative sources."
Reflecting McCain's "all of the above" talking point on energy, Palin promises to invest not only in oil but also in nuclear (*oddly spelled phonetically "new-clear" twice in the GOP press release of her transcript, which was e-mailed to the press) power and alternative energy sources. McCain has made nuclear power a central part of his energy policy, whereas Obama focuses on alternative and renewable energy as the center of his policy. Unlike Obama's plan, which outlines generating more money from coal and oil companies for use in the renewable and alternative energy sectors, McCain's references to alternatives are largely rhetorical.
"We need American energy resources, brought to you by American ingenuity, and produced by American workers."
A big federal investment in new energy production, whether it's oil and coal or renewable energy, will likely result in new jobs. Obama has promised millions of new jobs in his energy plan.
"What does he (Obama) actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. America needs more energy ... our opponent is against producing it."
True, Obama's energy plan calls for new investments by the federal government, new taxes on oil companies (something Palin has supported in Alaska) and a new bureaucracy to cap carbon emissions (something McCain also supports). It's not fair to say Obama is against producing more energy (though he often states the obvious, that the greatest source of new energy comes from conservation); Obama and McCain would seek the new energy in different places - Obama-Biden primarily from renewable and alternative sources, and McCain-Palin primarily from domestic oil and nuclear power.
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