Monday, March 16, 2009

Is Palin really the biggest obstacle to a gas pipeline?

Here's the press release on McGinniss' story. After that is McAllister's response to the press release. And lastly is a zinger -- a little tidbit about Palin and Exxon meeting the other week.

New York-Joe McGinniss, bestselling author of Going to Extremes, a nonfiction account of his year in Alaska, returns to the state in search of the $40 billion natural gas pipeline that Sarah Palin has said she is building. But McGinniss finds that not only is the pipeline not being built, but Palin herself is the biggest obstacle in its path. ("Pipe Dreams" p. 50). "Everything she is doing is the opposite of ‘Drill, baby, drill,' " former governor of Alaska Tony Knowles tells McGinniss. Despite pressure from the Obama administration to get pipeline construction underway, the prospect of its ever being built looks dimmer by the day. McGinniss reports how Palin has virtually ignored the pipeline issue since returning to Alaska in November to focus instead on her 2012 presidential campaign strategy. McGinniss notes her absence from major oil-company summits, and hears from a rising chorus of critics, including some of her former supporters. Alaska Republican Mike Hawker tells McGinniss, "The only thing standing in the way of an Alaska gas pipeline is the Sarah Palin administration." Palin's biggest blunder? Locking the state into an exclusive contract with a Canadian pipeline company (TransCanada) that has no access to Alaska's natural gas. Now BP and ConocoPhillips--two companies that do have gas--have launched a rival project. McGinniss writes that despite her repeated claims that she'd already gotten the project underway "What Palin had done... was contrive to pay as much as $500 million to a foreign company to look into the possibility of someday building a line." Since the election, the price of oil and gas has continued to plummet and Alaska's budget deficit has soared. McGinniss argues that Palin's $500 million commitment to TransCanada looks increasingly like money wasted. Even Hal Kvisle, the CEO of TransCanada, concedes, "I don't know whether we're going to see this [pipeline] get built or not."


Here is Bill McAllister's response on the McGinniss press release:

It seems to expect people to be surprised by the fact that the pipeline is not under construction. That's not much of an "aha." Obviously, anyone paying attention knows this will be years in the making.

"Palin has virtually ignored the pipeline issue since returning to Alaska in November to focus instead on her 2012 presidential campaign strategy." Show me one shred of proof for either part of that statement. The governor had a nearly daylong meeting with her gas line team the week after the election, and of course those consultations have continued. In early December, she arranged an event in Fairbanks to present the AGIA license to TransCanada. She has gas line-related funding requests pending before both the Congress and the Legislature. This is "ignoring"?

McGinniss notes "her absence from major oil-company summits." She had Exxon in her office last week. Not sure what his point is there.

McGinnis calls AGIA a blunder, but every lawmaker but one voted for it, and a majority voted to stay the course over a year later and give TransCanada a shot. The governor campaigned in 2006 on getting Alaska's terms for its gas, in contrast to the Murkowski contract that ceded tax sovereignty, judicial sovereignty and regulatory sovereignty. AGIA was a game-changer, a new paradigm.


And here's a follow-up exchange between Alaska Dispatch and McAllister about the Palin-Exxon meeting:

Alaska Dispatch: Gov. Palin met with Exxon? Can you tell me more about that meeting and the date it occurred? Why did she meet with Exxon? For Pt. Thomson? The gas line? Something else? What was the result of the meeting?

McAllister: I don't have details. I just saw them go into her office. I didn't ask her about it afterward. But hey, that wasn't the first time since the election. That's what's so off-base about McGinnis. He obviously doesn't have a clue what she does.


And now we end with a few questions for you to chew on in the comments section:

1) Was AGIA nothing more than a ploy to get the industry to move on the gas line project?

2) Can Alaskans trust BP and Conoco to follow through with their Denali pipeline?

3) Should the state continue down the AGIA path, including subsidizing TransCanada, especially during these lean economic times/lower oil prices?

4) And is Palin really the biggest obstacle to a gas pipeline?

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