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Sarah “Energy Expert” Palin: Ready to lead America away from science and back into the past

July 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Amid many astounding and bizaare themes of the 2008 election, one of the most absurd came from the Republican Party’s determined efforts to cast Sarah Palin as one of the nation’s top energy experts. Putting aside the 10,000s (if not 100,000s or even millions) of Americans who are more knowledgeable of energy issues, Palin demonstrated her energy illiteracy on the rare occasions where she faced substantive questioning related to energy or climate issues.

Sarah Palin, in a post-resignation ‘intellectual move’ almost certainly ghost-written by fossil-fuel interests, has a fact-free column in The Washington Post. Looking at this unbridled attack on the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, some core points shine forth.

Reading this OPED brings one to this Palin campaign slogan:

Sarah “Energy Expert” Palin:

Ready to lead American away from science and back into the past.

And, considering the stream of deceptive, mendacious and mediocre Washington Post opinion pieces related to energy and climate issues, opening The Washington Post to see this misguided OPED leads to a simple question: “Is there any sane person left in the Post management?”

After the fold, let’s take a look at the thoughts of whoever was putting words in Sarah’s name.

“The ‘Cap and Tax’ Dead End”

This is the framing that the Republican Party wishes to place. Scream “Tax, Tax, Tax” from the rooftops, trying to scare people without any discussion as to benefits.  And, of course, there is no indication in Sarah’s OPED of the dead-end that catastrophic climate change would entail.

And, amazingly, see that “Cap” in the title? That “Cap” means putting a Cap on greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions due to global warming issues.  Put in the title, it is absurd that the OPED doesn’t have a syllable addressing climate change.

By Sarah Palin


As Art Brodsky put it, “It’s not simply that no one who saw her last two press conferences about her quitting Alaska for the bright lights of the Lower 48 believes she actually wrote the piece. Ghost-writing is a fine established art. Few politicians do their own writing. It’s quite another to believe that she actually knows or cares sufficiently about cap-and-trade and environmental legislation to care enough to write about it for a major newspaper.” 

There is no shortage of threats to our economy. America’s unemployment rate recently hit its highest mark in more than 25 years and is expected to continue climbing. Worries are widespread that even when the economy finally rebounds, the recovery won’t bring jobs.

True. Always good when launching into a truthiness-laden spiel to have some truth to con the open reader into an agreeing mind.

Now, of course, there isn’t room in the OPED to mention that Bush-Cheney Administration policies are a primary driver in creating that hole. And, of course, there won’t be any mention of how core fossil-foolish energy policies were in helping create the conditions for the 2008 economic crash. 

Our nation’s debt is unsustainable, and the federal government’s reach into the private sector is unprecedented.

Well, that first part almost certainly is truth and even truthful. This was true under Bush-Cheney and the current efforts to stabilize the economy and move toward recovery (preferably reconstruction to something better) is requiring a massive level of debt that should come to an end. Of course, Sarah Palin won’t address a key path to dealing with that debt: recalibrating the tax burden back even to the days of Ronald Reagan, where the wealthiest paid more in taxes. 

As to the reach of the Federal government, how do we define “unprecedented”. Perhaps Sarah’s ghost writers (or those illusive Washington Post fact checkers) might want to spend some time looking to federal engagement in the private sector during, for example, the two World Wars. 

Unfortunately, many in the national media would rather focus on the personality-driven political gossip of the day than on the gravity of these challenges. So, at risk of disappointing the chattering class, let me make clear what is foremost on my mind and where my focus will be:

Yes, in the weeks and months leading to her audacious political move of resignation from her responsibilities as the elected Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin and cohorts never engaged in deceptive whines about media reporting. 

Yes, her mind was and will be elsewhere.

I am deeply concerned about President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan,

Always good to ‘name your enemy’.  Even though this is the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, even though the bill undercuts many of President Obama’s stated principles for a climate bill, this is “President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan”.  Okay …

and I believe it is an enormous threat to our economy.

Sad that we need to waste time on what this know-nothing believes (and the errors of that belief), but let’s have at it.

It would undermine our recovery over the short term and would inflict permanent damage.

While far from an enthusiastic supporter of ACES, this statement is fundamentally untrue.

1.  In terms of short term, the bill’s significant provisions wouldn’t start to go into effect until 2012.

2.  The bill’s investment streams in things like energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment would boost economic recovery.  Analysis shows, quite conclusively, that investment in clean energy (both efficiency and renewable energy) has a much higher jobs multiplier than the same investment in polluting energy.  Want to create jobs and boost the economy: go clean and green!

3.  In the long term, not dealing with climate change “would inflict permanent damage” on U.S. national security.  Not dealing with fossil fuel pollution “would inflict permanent damage” on millions of Americans health. Not dealing with oil dependencies “would inflict permanent damage” on U.S. economic prospects.

American prosperity has always been driven by the steady supply of abundant, affordable energy.

And, sadly, far too much of this has gone on ignoring the very real ‘external costs’ from sending sailors to protect oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, to increased asthma and cancer cases among our children from fossil fuel pollution, to acidification of the oceans.  “Affordable”, in Sarah’s (or her ghost-writer’s) world ignores a substantial amount of the costs.

And, note as you read through, there is no mention of a

Particularly in Alaska, we understand the inherent link between energy and prosperity, energy and opportunity, and energy and security.

Yes, a huge share of Alaska’s wealth derives from resource exploitation, especially of fossil fuels.  Selling oil at $147 barrel is good for Alaska’s governmental budget even if not good for the rest of America.

Consequently, many of us in this huge, energy-rich state recognize that the president’s cap-and-trade energy tax would adversely affect every aspect of the U.S. economy.

Forget “recognize”, have a mistaken belief that might be more appropriate.

There is no denying that as the world becomes more industrialized, we need to reform our energy policy and become less dependent on foreign energy sources.

While not just because the world is becoming industrialized, but yes …

But the answer doesn’t lie in making energy scarcer and more expensive!

Does the answer lie in figuring out ways to continue to feed our oil addiction? Which, by the way, we cannot do in the long term via a Drill! Baby! Drill! strategy?  (Reminder, the US only has a small (roughly 2 percent) of the world’s oil reserves while continuing to use nearly 25 percent of world demand.)

Those who understand the issue know we can meet our energy needs and environmental challenges without destroying America’s economy.

Yes, “those who undersand the issue” know that a combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy, incentivies for energy innovation and technological development, and beginning to price in the real costs of polluting energy (making “external” costs like cancers from diesel fuel pollution) into the transactional costs will help spur an American renaissance toward a more prosperous and more secure, climate-friendly friendly future.

Job losses are so certain under this new cap-and-tax plan that it includes a provision accommodating newly unemployed workers from the resulting dried-up energy sector, to the tune of $4.2 billion over eight years. So much for creating jobs.

This would be laughable except that it does appear in a major American newspaper and, sadly, there are people who will take this seriously.  This legislation would help create far more jobs, but economic and industrial change creates disruption and this bill has elements to help shelter people from that disruption and assist them in  taking advantage of new opportunities.

Let’s play with some historical analogies.

  • When the transcontinental railroad was constructed, this helped put stage coach drivers, those out of work.   Were those lost jobs reason not to take the train?
  • Introducing cell phones reduced the need for pay phones and, therefore, cut jobs for collecting the change people spent for phone calls.  Should we not have cell phones so that there could be more people collecting $100s of quarters from pay phones on street corners?

This point is an excellent example of how the Republicans’ definition of ‘cost and benefit’ analysis seems to only focus on “cost” when it comes from the other side of the aisle, ignoring all benefits, and exaggerate benefits while totally ignoring costs when it has an “R” next to the title. 

In addition to immediately increasing unemployment in the energy sector,

Sarah (or ghost-writer):  Want to mention that, in 2008, wind energy surpassed coal mining in terms of employed Americans and that the gap is growing larger with each passing day? 

Under what fantasy scenario does investing in energy efficiency and renewables lead to “immediately increasing unemployment in the energy sector” unless your definition of “energy sector” excludes any clean energy option?

even more American jobs will be threatened by the rising cost of doing business under the cap-and-tax plan.

Well, there are also reduced costs of doing business through, for example, fewer work days off due to illnesses, reduced health care costs due to reduced illnesses, improved productivity, etc …  And, there will be new business opportunities and new potential business spaces … Without, of course, getting into the very significant value of avoiding the costs of catastrophic climate change.

For example, the cost of farming will certainly increase, driving down farm incomes while driving up grocery prices.

Ah, the fear-mongering with a false claim based on junk economics that climate legislation will drive up food prices. In fact, farm incomes could increase significantly due to carbon sequestration options and payments for responsible farming practices. And, of course, there is that avoided cost issue: farming is a sector that faces devastating impacts from climate change disruptions.  Does it matter to Sarah that farming doesn’t fare that well in face of droughts (extended droughts), floods, severe storms, unpredictable weather, new (voracious) insects, etc? All of which are part and parcel of climate predictions for the vast majority of America’s farmlands. 

The costs of manufacturing, warehousing and transportation will also increase.

Sigh … ‘cost, cost, cost …’ but any benefit?

The ironic beauty in this plan? Soon, even the most ardent liberal will understand supply-side economics.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Laugh-Out-Loud with Sarah!

We finally found that Silver Lining.

The Americans hit hardest will be those already struggling to make ends meet. As the president eloquently puts it, their electricity bills will “necessarily skyrocket.” So much for not raising taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year.

Even Warren Buffett, an ardent Obama supporter, admitted that under the cap-and-tax scheme, “poor people are going to pay a lot more for electricity.”

Well, the analysis of the ACES’ structure and consumer protection point out a very different case: the average consumer will face lower bills due to energy efficiency provisions in the legislation. The bill, which Sarah (ghost-writer’s name inserted here) Palin fails to mention, is an Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Energy, and Climate Change bill — it is not simply a Cap & Trade proposal.  A Cap & Trade, without any of the protective measures for consumers or the associated energy investments, alone might lead to those higher energy bills but this is not a stove-piped piece of legislation, no matter how hard Sarah’s ghost-writer hopes to suggest otherwise.

One analysis suggests that the average net benefit for poorest Americans would be in the range of $40 per month in 2020. If gaining $40 is being “hit hardest” in Sarah’s book, I would welcome learning how she (or her ghost-writer) defines “gains”.

We must move in a new direction.

Yes, we must.

We are ripe for economic growth and energy independence if we responsibly tap the resources that God created right underfoot on American soil.

When Sarah (and ghost-writer) consider energy, she looks backwards and down under her feet.  Digging our hold deeper to feed out oil and carbon addiction rather than setting our sights higher for something better.

We should, instead, be looking above our shoulders and between our ears for a smarter energy

Just as important, we have more desire and ability to protect the environment than any foreign nation from which we purchase energy today.


And so?

In Alaska, we are progressing on the largest private-sector energy project in history. Our 3,000-mile natural gas pipeline will transport hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of our clean natural gas to hungry markets across America.

The key target of that pipeline: feeding the Canadian Tar Sands to produce unconventional oil for tar sands.

We can safely drill for U.S. oil offshore and in a tiny, 2,000-acre corner of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if ever given the go-ahead by Washington bureaucrats.

And, so?  How many years (oops weeks) of America’s oil addiction will that fix?  Decades from now, this might produce 5 percent of today’s demand … if that.

By the way, amusing the Republican ploy of blaming this on “Washington bureaucrats” when it is the elected officials (e.g., Congress), the American people’s representatives, who have made this decision not faceless “Washington bureaucrats”.

Of course, Alaska is not the sole source of American energy. Many states have abundant coal, whose technology is continuously making it into a cleaner energy source. Westerners literally sit on mountains of oil and gas, and every state can consider the possibility of nuclear energy.

This is amazing. As wind energy grows explosively across the United States, new major solar contracts are announced near monthly, biomass operations grow, geothermal resources are being developed, and other clean options are emerging, Sarah (Ghostwriter’s name inserted here) Palin’s list is oil, gas, coal, and nuclear energy. 

We have an important choice to make. Do we want to control our energy supply and its environmental impact? Or, do we want to outsource it to China, Russia and Saudi Arabia? Make no mistake: President Obama’s plan will result in the latter.

First off, FALSE!

Second, there are choices before us.  Sarah (ghostwriter’s name inserted here) Palin wants Americans to stick their heads into the mud, trying to feed our fossil fuelish addictions with a fix rather than fix the addiction with solutions.  And, her fix would cede our economic future to the hands of China, India, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, Europe and others who are busily investing enormous sums in creating new energy options for the future. 

For so many reasons, we can’t afford to kill responsible domestic energy production or clobber every American consumer with higher prices.

That is true, “we can’t afford to kill responsible domestic energy production” — “responsible” like building wind farms, doing geothermal electricity production with oil & natural gas waste water, combined-heat power at industrial facilities combined with finally getting serious about efficiently using our energy. A holistic approach to our energy challenge, Sarah, would be responsible. 

Emphasizing a backwards looking, hole digging path is the height of irresponsibility.

Can America produce more of its own energy through strategic investments that protect the environment, revive our economy and secure our nation?

Yes, we can.

Sarah is right.

Just not with Barack Obama’s energy cap-and-tax plan.

Just not with Sarah (ghostwriter’s name inserted here) Palin’s irresponsible and ill-informed dig our holes deeper fix for America’s oil addiction.

The writer, a Republican, is governor of Alaska.

Well, not for much longer.


For two excellent discussions, see:

Senator John Kerry, What Gov. Palin Forgot

Mark Sumner, Palin Caps Intelligence, Trades for Nonsense

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