Sarah Palin, energy expert

In a new op-ed, the outgoing governor of Alaska blasts President Obama's energy plan


Vincent Rossmeier
July 14, 2009 8:50PM (UTC)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain said that his running mate, Sarah Palin, knew "more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America." Apparently, despite her friction with those who ran the Arizona senator's campaign, Palin took those words to heart. On Tuesday, the soon to be ex-governor of Alaska had an op-ed in the Washington Post in which she blasted President Obama's energy plan.

While the piece is certainly more coherent than her resignation announcement or some of her past interviews, the article makes numerous unsubstantiated claims and reads like a greatest hits list of Republican talking points on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill currently working its way through Congress.

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Palin used the op-ed to reiterate some of her now standard pet issues. For example, before asserting that the cap-and-trade energy plan "is an enormous threat to our economy. It would undermine our recovery over the short term and would inflict permanent damage," she takes the time to criticize the national media and the "personality-driven political gossip of the day." Needless to say, this is a strained line of argument for someone who has done much to keep her own name in the news since the election, in both her feud with David Letterman and her continued family drama.

Yet, it's when she attacks Obama that the reasoning in her op-ed really breaks down. She writes, "the president's cap-and-trade energy tax would adversely affect every aspect of the U.S. economy" and then proceeds to produce a laundry list of problems cap-and-trade legislation would produce. She cites certain massive job losses, rising costs on U.S. businesses, and higher electricity bills for American consumers as just three of the negative consequences of the plan.

But this is a distortion of what the legislation will actually do. Jobs in old, dirty energy sectors like coal and gas may decrease, but Palin ignores the fact that new forms of energy are likely to lead to new energy-related jobs. And while President Obama has admitted a cap-and-trade policy will raise electricity rates, FiveThirtyEight.com's Nate Silver has pointed out that the hikes for most U.S. citizens will be relatively modest.

Part of the intention of the proposal is to get consumers to use less electricity. As Harvard's leading environmental economist recently told Salon, a good way to do this is with small increases in power rates. Palin completely overlooks the improved environmental impact that lies at the root of cap-and-trade. Even more tellingly, she does not rely on any scientific evidence to back up any of the bold statements she makes in the piece.

Palin also touts clean coal as a way for America to become energy independent, but many environmentalists and scientists have argued that clean coal is a myth. Additionally, Palin writes that we should be drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an action Republicans have longed lobbied for but that studies have shown would barely impact the U.S.'s dependence on foreign oil suppliers and could have a negative impact on the environment. Nowhere in the piece does Palin discuss renewable sources of energy.

Perhaps more important than the merits of Palin's claims, however, is the fact the op-ed seems to reaffirm her stated desire to increase her presence in national politics. Most Americans believe that her political ambition was behind her resignation and the op-ed could be an indication that if media outlets are willing to give her a national platform, Palin's going to be proactive in taking advantage of the exposure.

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Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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