Governor and Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin spoke at length about energy policies during the VP debate and cited her state’s natural gas pipeline as just one example of her achievements as Governor. Palin stated during last week’s debate, “We’re building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline, which is North America’s largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever, to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets.” (Then she probably winked) What is inaccurate about Palin’s comments? Not a single section of that pipe has been built since the plan was approved in the 1970’s. In fact, at this point Palin’s pipeline is just as likely to never exist at all than it is to be built.
With the Presidential election fast approaching, energy is at the forefront of the political discussion. Inevitably, attention turns to domestic oil and natural gas production as a partial solution to American’s energy crisis. So much so, that you would think T. Boone Pickens is running for office. Unfortunately, much of the information is being inaccurately dessiminated to gain a political advantage. The “drill drill drill” chant that was begun by the GOP and now has been taken up by Democrats is woefully inadequate to make much, if any of a dent in our consumption. By most estimates all of the offshore reserves around America in total would only account for 3% of the fuel that we as a nation consume. That is if we were to tap into it and get it out of the ocean immediately. The reality is that it will take years to build the facilities that will get at that oil. Which is why oil billionaire Pickens formulated his natural gas plan and adopted his “we can’t drill our way out of this” mantra. Not that there are not plenty of obstacles for the Pickens Plan as well. We may have plenty of natural gas and at $1.50 a gallon it would seem like a no-brainer solution, but we don’t have the pipelines or trucks to deliver it to gas stations or the vehicles being built or available to run on it in significant numbers to relax our dependency on oil. The Alaskan pipeline that Gov. Palin likes to take credit for “building” would not deliver gas until at least 2018. What about all of the vehicles already on the road? Yes they can be converted, but extremely few places are legally allowed to convert vehicles to CNG and people simply don’t have the money to pay for these conversions right now anyway. With all of the positive technological announcements coming out of Detroit, none of them involve natural gas as part of their future plans, instead focusing on hybrid and electric options. Lastly, if the Alaskan pipeline is completed in 10 years, it could handle 5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, which sounds great. However, to keep that in perspective, the United States currently consumes daily about 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
I would like to believe that America is up to the Herculean task of a huge Roosevelt-era style public works project that would address all of the numerous issues that stand in the way of our energy problems and in the process put thousands of people to work building new pipelines, service stations and converting cars to run on domestic energy sources. The reality is that with any of the plans being discussed, whoever becomes President will likely be responsible for implementing a solution that may not result in much, if any, improvement during their presidency.