CCF Note: The following is from a July 11, 2008, interview with Investor’s Business Daily. Now that she’s been tapped for VP, it’s a very good read and should explain most misconceptions that the mainstream media and bloggers are already using to rake any muck as they break the news. Enjoy the Q&A.
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Gov. Sarah Palin is a rising political star in Alaska, with an 84% approval rating. A strong advocate of opening her state to more oil drilling, she recently spoke with IBD.
IBD: Alaska was bought by the U.S. from Russia in 1867 specifically to ensure a supply of natural resources. How do Alaskans feel about the opposition from politicians representing the lower 48 to drilling for oil there?
Palin: Alaskans are frustrated because there is opposition in Congress to developing our vast amount of natural resources. We want to contribute more to the rest of the United States. We want to help secure the United States, and help us get off this reliance of foreign sources of energy.
It’s a very nonsensical position we’re in right now. We send President Bush and Secretary (of Energy Sam) Bodman overseas to ask the Saudis to ramp up production of crude oil so that hungry markets in America can be fed, (and) your sister state in Alaska has those resources. But these lands are locked up by Congress, and we are not allowed to drill to the degree America needs the development.
When we became a state 50 years ago, we struck a deal with the federal government where we said, "Let us in a union where we will be as self-sufficient as possible." And the federal government said, "Come in, you’ll be our 49th state, and you’ll do it by developing your God-given resources."
Fifty years later . . . we’re living up to our end of the bargain, and now we need the rest of the U.S. to live up to their end of the bargain, to lead America toward energy independence. Alaska should be the leader of an energy policy that gets us there.
IBD: Why does Alaska find it so hard to be listened to? The state’s senators have tried many times to get legislation through that would allow drilling, and they’ve been shot down every time.
Palin: There are great misconceptions about the developments up here. Take ANWR. The misperception is that this is a huge swath of pristine land, full of mountains and rivers and wildlife. Those are the pictures seen on TV. But what we’re talking about with ANWR is a 2,000-acre plot of land that is a smaller footprint than LAX or big airports outside Alaska.
It’s not mountainous, and there aren’t rivers flowing through it. So even the perception of what ANWR would entail is wrong, and we need to correct that.
But even more important than explaining the geography and physical aspects of this plot of land is that I have to show that Alaska will have the prudent oversight that Alaskans and Americans will expect as we develop our natural resources.
Here in Alaska we love our clean air and our clean water and our abundant wildlife. We will protect Alaska. I’m a Republican, and when I got elected, some accused me of being anti-development. I created a new office to just concentrate on oversight of resource development on the North Slope.
We’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re budgeting for strict oversight so we can prove to the rest of the U.S. that we will have safe, clean developments and will do this responsibly (and) ethically.
IBD: Does the rest of the U.S. have reason to doubt you?
Palin: In the past, Alaska’s reputation didn’t lead the rest of America to believe we were adamant about safe, clean, responsible development here.
I say that because we had legislators who are now serving prison time because they were found guilty of being corrupted for their votes on oil and gas taxes by oil and gas industry players. That reputation has really hurt Alaska, and it’s no wonder that some have not wanted to believe that we are opening a new chapter in Alaska’s life.
IBD: What’s your best assessment of Alaska’s ongoing oil and gas potential and especially how much can be gotten from ANWR?
Palin: There are billions of barrels of oil underneath the ground up there on the North Slope including ANWR. In Alaska alone we can supply seven years of complete crude-oil independence, and eight years’ supply of natural gas for Americans with ANWR (and) other areas of Alaska that we want to allow for development. That’s proof that Alaska can be a significant player in the world market.
IBD: How long will it take to develop these areas? Critics say five to 10 years.
Palin: ANWR would take five years to begin providing crude oil to our pipeline. But you have to consider that if we’d started this five years ago, then we wouldn’t be in this position right now. And who knows where we’re going to be in another five years.
There are even bigger sources of crude than ANWR . . . such as offshore areas like the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea. Congress can help us with those areas right now, bringing even more energy than ANWR and bringing it quicker.
We frequently find ourselves at the mercy of those who think that we must be protected from ourselves. Shell is up here wanting to drill offshore, but they’ve been fighting various environmental groups through the 9th Circuit Court and are running into very fierce pushback. In this area, Congress could help us with the development and bring those sources of energy to market quicker than ANWR.
IBD: Some politicians and presidential candidates say we can’t drill our way out of our energy problem and that drilling in ANWR will have no effect. What’s your best guess of the impact on prices?
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. Energy being a global market, it’s impossible to venture a guess on (specific) prices. We never would have thought oil would reach $140. Only a few months ago, we thought $100 would be the peak. And here it is at $140 (with) no end in sight.
It’s very difficult to determine, but we do know the demand is going to continue to increase. The demand in Asia especially is one reason why prices are going to increase. But if I could predict energy prices, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.
IBD: How serious is the threat to development posed by designation of the polar bear as an endangered species?
Palin: We believe that listing polar bears as such is a significant threat to development, because most live on the North Slope. (But) the biggest problem with the ruling is that we are the only state that is impacted. Most polar bears (are found) in Canada. We’ve got other places in the world once again telling us Alaskans how to live, and whether we can develop.
We’ve coexisted with bears for decades to no detrimental effect. Our bear population is thriving. This listing is nothing but interference from outsiders who insist on keeping Alaska from developing our resources responsibly. I tell you, if we thought we were killing a species—in this case, the polar bear — we would mend our ways.
You have to remember, our native culture is paramount to the Alaska way of life. My husband is native, my kids are native. We have such respect for native culture, and the polar bear is part of it. We can develop and take care of animals, and we’ll continue to do both.
IBD: What about the impact of development on caribou and other wildlife?
Palin: There are magnificent caribou and wolves and bears and porcupines and birds all through Alaska. You can see them thriving today as you could in the 1960s, before pipelines were built. Talk about coexistence: We’ve got grizzlies roaming on the pipeline, and caribou migrations passing underneath it.
When people visit Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope, they appreciate how Alaska’s resources go from the ground to the pipeline to the lower 48. But they also get to learn about Arctic wildlife, because it’s right there, it’s thriving, and we work hard to responsibly develop resources so that will always be the case. Our mantra is develop responsibly. And as governor, I have to do more than talk. I have to walk the walk.
IBD: You’re proposing to give each Alaskan $1,200 to offset high energy costs. How can you do that?
Palin: It’s a plan that I’m bringing to our lawmakers because we do have an energy crisis and it’s ridiculous that we do. Alaskans are paying the highest costs to fill up their vehicles and heat their houses and businesses. Yet we’re the ones with the resources. We own the resources as individuals’ pocketbooks are shrinking.
Our state government coffers are bursting at the seams because 85% to 90% of our budget comes from oil and gas developments. So I’m saying we have a surplus, so give the surplus back to the people. Legislators are now . . . considering that.
I also proposed eliminating the gas tax levied on consumers some years ago. Some legislators would say they can find a place to spend it, and I’m sure (they) could. But I would rather those dollars also go back to the consumers.
IBD: Have you had inquiries about developing and managing energy resources from other states?
Palin: Well, one big piece of all this we haven’t spoken of is building a natural gas pipeline. It’s about a $30 billion project we’re proposing right now . . . to feed hungry markets. As Alaska approaches 50-year statehood, my promise is that we contribute to the rest of the country. I don’t want us to be seen as takers. And as we supply 20% of domestic crude oil to the rest of the United States, I want to ramp that up by supplying Alaskan natural gas that can flow through a pipeline we are proposing.
IBD: Do you have any thoughts about being named as a vice presidential candidate?
Palin: I think that any kind of national profile, if there is any elevation of that, it’s for Alaska itself. People are looking up here (and saying) we need you as leaders for energy policy. We have a willingness to develop responsibly and supply the rest of the United States, and that’s why we are being looked at. I just happen to be in a position of leadership where I get drawn into that.
As for vice president, it would be certainly an exciting thing to consider, but to me it’s so farfetched and out there that I don’t spend any time thinking about it because we have so many things to do in Alaska.