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Palin's Energy Expertise

When it comes to energy policy, the Alaska governor is the most experienced politician on either ticket.

12:00 AM, Sep 16, 2008 • By DAVE JUDAY
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Another flawed idea is Obama's overly ambitious plan for renewable fuels. The 2007 energy bill, pushed by the Bush administration, and passed by the Democratic Congress, mandates the use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels. Since its passage in December, food inflation has been 7.6 percent so far in 2008; by comparison, before we had a renewable fuel mandate written into law, food inflation had a 10 year average of 2.3 percent. As for so-called second generation fuels, even the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), author of a bill that put more than $1 billion into developing new feedstock for renewable fuels, has said that, "I'm not sure cellulosic ethanol will ever get off the ground." Despite the current food versus fuel conflict, and the lack of progress on cellulosic ethanol, the Obama campaign plan still calls for increasing the renewable fuels mandate to 60 billion gallons--a two-thirds increase over the current mandatory schedule.

Finally--under what can only be called the "audacity of hope" category--Obama's energy plan calls for China and India to reduce their use of oil. Fat chance. Those two countries--along with Russia--accounted for 50 percent of the world's economic growth last year. But logically pursued, this means that a large part of Obama's foreign policy would be to persuade China and India that a growing middle class in their countries is not in the best interest of U.S. energy policy, and that they should return large portions of their combined 2.2 billion population to below poverty lines to curb growth--and energy use. And Sarah Palin is called naïve on foreign policy.

Then there is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). For 20 years, we've known from the Department of the Interior's resource evaluation that there is a 95 percent chance of finding at least one "super field" of 500 million barrels of oil there. The estimates of total oil in the Coastal Plain--one small corner of the total ANWR--are between 4.8 and 29.4 billion barrels. Barrack Obama states: "I strongly reject drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because it would irreversibly damage a protected national wildlife refuge without creating sufficient oil supplies to meaningfully affect the global market price or have a discernable impact on U.S. energy security." Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, has also voted against drilling in ANWR during his 34 years in Congress.

McCain too has opposed drilling in ANWR. But as far back as June, he admitted to reconsidering that long held stance, following the adage of William Seward, the secretary of state who engineered the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, "the circumstances of the world are so variable that an irrevocable purpose or opinion is almost synonymous with a foolish one." More so than Seward, however, the voice McCain is hearing on ANWR is now that of Sarah Palin. He calls her "persuasive" on the topic. Proof positive that Sarah Palin--alone among the top four candidates for national office in having experience in the real world of energy--is having an important impact on the energy policy debate.

Dave Juday is a commodity market analyst.