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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Real Sarah Palin Story Of The Past Week: Energy Independence

Quick, what was the biggest Sarah Palin story of the past week or so?

Was it her rousing introduction of Michael Reagan in Anchorage where she eloquently spoke of his father, President Ronald Reagan, and took on President Barack Obama, and his big government policies, head on?

Maybe it was her trip to Auburn, NY where she celebrated the life of former Secretary of State William Seward, in conjunction with Alaska’s 50th year of statehood, an event that saw Palin draw over 20,000 people. Seward is the one who pushed for the purchase of Alaska from Russia.

Palin gave a stem winding policy speech in Auburn that saw her again take on the current administration’s big government policies, it’s want to apologize for America when overseas, it’s military readiness, and foreign policy.

It could be the over $500,000 Governor Palin raised for several charities, including autism research and assisted living while in the state. You might even think that it was the crass and tasteless remarks made by a late night talk show host, aimed a Palin and her 14 year old daughter, and the ensuing calls for his firing and his show’s loss of sponsors.

All of these are big stories, for sure. But as usual, the real story got lost by the media.

While in Auburn, Governor Palin spoke at length about America’s need for energy independence and promised a huge bit of news would come out within the week concerning this..

And true to her word, in Dallas, Texas Governor Palin announced to the world of the huge progress on AGIA, the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act.

Governor Palin announced that in a historic agreement, Exxon-Mobil had joined with Trans-Canada to make what some have called a “pipe dream” a reality.

Audio of the announcement from Exxon-Mobil and Trans-Canada officials is available here.

For those not familiar, Alaskans have tried for over 30 years to build a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the lower 48. Previous Governors have tried to make this happen, and Alaskans have went back and forth on how it should be done.

Governor Palin made this a centerpiece of her administration. Within weeks of taking office, the wheels were set in motion to get this done. The AGIA legislation was passed 57-1 through Alaska’s legislature.

Of course, there were plenty of critics, this was a big undertaking. At $126 billion, the 1712 mile pipeline is the largest infrastructure project in history.

Many thought that Governor Palin had just bit off more than she, or anyone else could chew. There were worries about the market for natural gas. But the demand for the fuel is expected to rise as much as 40 percent by the year 2030.

Obama administration officials who had nothing to do with this, like Energy Secretary Ken Salazar, have rushed to claim credit for all of this. A pretty good endorsement of Governor Palin’s efforts.

Investor’s Business Daily, gives high praise to Governor Palin, and points out that Exxon-Mobil has some very strict guidelines for investment. Their standards are high. Marty Massey, U.S. joint interest manager of Exxon Mobil Production Co. Had this to say about his company’s involvement:

“We evaluated all the options and it came down to our belief that this approach with TransCanada and Exxon Mobil was going to be the most successful project.”

Massey went on to say that Exxon might look at expanding it’s role in the project.

As the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act Trans-Canada and Exxon Partnership materials point out, this is a privately funded project. Which obviously makes this deal a win-win for the state. The purpose of AGIA is to protect the interests of the state of Alaska as the project moves forward.

The bottom line in all of this, is the pipeline will be built. Trans-Canada is one of the world’s most respected pipeline construction companies, and Exxon-Mobil is certainly a well respected oil and gas company.

For those that don’t understand the real impact of all of this, let’s talk about natural gas and it’s uses.

Natural gas is one of the cleanest burning fossil fuels we have. Most Americans use it every day. We heat with it. We cook with it. But there are other uses. One of the more promising uses of natural gas is as a leading motor fuel.

Compressed natural gas (CNG), along with propane, has been used for decades to power automobiles, trucks, and buses. In fact, many large and medium sized U.S. cities already have fleets of cars, trucks, and buses that are powered by CNG. The reasoning behind this, of course, is the fact that an engine that burns CNG instead of gasoline, will see some of it’s harmful emissions reduced by as much as 90 percent. And with the addition of the latest engine management computer technology CNG has never been a more viable fuel.

Something else that makes CNG so promising is the fact that diesel engines can be made to run on the fuel as well, greatly reducing their emissions. And while some may tout electrics as the future of the automobile, that technology, will not work on long haul trucks, the 18 wheelers you see every day as they haul goods all over America. The battery technology just isn’t anywhere close to making it viable for that application.

Even better, every single one of the Big 3: Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors build cars, trucks, and buses that run on clean burning natural gas, and have for decades. So it would be a no brainer to produce more vehicles to run on CNG. Honda is also building CNG powered versions of it’s most popular models that are available to Americans right now.

Many countries use CNG powered vehicles extensively for transportation.

There are even companies that make units that people can install in their home garages that compress the natural gas, and allow someone to refill their car at home.

As a 30 year veteran of the automotive industry, and a certified “car guy”. This writer is very excited about the possibilities of CNG.

Alaska has an estimated 200 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. That is enough to make America very independent when it comes to energy. And that’s the real story here. Once the pipeline becomes operational, in less than a decade, America will be more secure, and energy independent.

Texas oil billionaire T Boone Pickens has been advocating a plan for some time that would see much of America’s vehicles converted to run on CNG, and see wind and solar become a more prominent source of electrical generation. In the Pickens Plan, the wind and solar would replace the natural gas we are currently using to produce electricity, freeing it up for transportation use.

Natural gas is a real win-win for America. It’s very plentiful. We have more than the equivalent of all of the world’s oil reserves in American natural gas. Natural gas is a very clean fuel. The environmentalists like it. And, this is not some newfangled experimental fuel. We have used natural gas for a long time to cook and heat with, and automakers have built vehicles that use it as a fuel for almost a century.

If automakers were to convert much of their production to vehicles that run on CNG, it would be cost effective, as the technology is already in use, and proven, as compared to all of the billions that have been invested in technology that still hasn’t produced a practical mass production car that people will actually buy and can use for more than short trips to the store.

This announcement from Governor Palin is indeed big news. This is a game changing effort that will not only help make America energy independent, but has the potential to change every American’s lives for the better with a clean, American produced fuel.

The national security benefits in all of this should not be lost either. The less money we send overseas to purchase oil, the less money regimes that don't necessarily like America will have. America sends nearly one trillion dollars a year overseas to buy crude oil.

Governor Palin has again lived up to her billing as an authority on energy. The Governor who previously was chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, as well as the chair of the National Governor’s Association Natural Resources Committee, and the Chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, is uniquely qualified to lead on energy independence. And she is most certainly using her industry experience to move America in that direction.

Sarah Palin hit a grand slam home run last week. This will truly make America stronger.