Written by Keith Pickett (aka wilsonpickett)
Sarah Palin’s guest appearances this week in a 3-part series from Alaska with FOX News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren have hopefully opened some eyes regarding the 20-million-acre ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), NPR-A (National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska), the North Slope, Prudhoe Bay and the entire issue of drilling for oil and natural gas in the “Last Frontier.”
The recent disastrous deep-water oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is “all the more reason why we (the U.S.) should start looking back to on-shore drilling — at all the reserves that are rich in oil and gas — and start tapping into them again,” Gov. Palin said in the national interview as she and husband Todd flew with the FOX-TV crew from the Arctic Circle at the northern tip of Alaska to the oil-pipeline terminus at the port of Valdez, 800 miles south.
“Absolutely, it is safer to drill on land,” she responded to a question from Van Susteren, “and it’s more fruitful…..With the stroke of a pen, Congress and our President could allow more on-shore drilling in these proven reserves…
“You want a true stimulus for the economy? Drill in Alaska!”
For those C4P readers who want to learn more about the vital oil/gas business and what Gov. Palin accomplished in a little over two years for Alaska’s citizens by overcoming pressure from the Big Oil titans as well as her own elected government officials, check out a copy of Sarah Takes On Big Oil, by Kay Cashman and Kristen Nelson.
It will greatly expand your understanding of the intricate complexities of the oil business in Alaska and give you a new appreciation for the intelligence and leadership skills of the lady from Wasilla. (At the end of this thread are excerpts from the book, including quotes by government and industry leaders reflecting on those attributes demonstrated by Gov. Palin.)
Because my small-town library in southwestern Illinois did not have the book, the librarian had to go into the state interlibrary loan system, finally finding it in Pontiac (between Bloomington-Normal and Chicago).
Most of the 195-page book, Sarah Takes On Big Oil (published in the fall of 2008), deals with the myriad of details and interrelationships between Big Oil and the Alaskan state government. Surprisingly, there is little focus on the personality of Sarah Palin — just the facts. What it does, though, is to give the reader a glimpse into the technical, economics-oriented complexities of overseeing the oil business (which provides the funds for 85 percent of Alaska’s budget) and how difficult it was for Gov. Palin to change the mind-set and “good ol’ boy” way of doing things that had existed since Alaska was ushered into statehood 51 years ago. It also shows the critical factors always present in the Governor’s approach to the oil industry: that Alaska’s citizens own the state’s natural resources, and environmental concerns need to be addressed responsibly while pursing energy independence (which in turn affects national security).
Authors Cashman and Nelson are veteran industry experts in the oil business, writing and publishing an Anchorage-based independent weekly newspaper, Petroleum News. Cashman is the longtime publisher and executive editor of the newspaper; Nelson is editor-in-chief. Their credentials and knowledge of the Alaskan oil business are obvious.
The book emphasizes how Gov. Palin relied on the state’s constitution, “the good book” as she called it, to guide her way in overcoming the hurdles thrown at her by the world’s oil giants and the entrenched state legislators, including the group known as the “Corrupt Bastards Club.”
Such technical terms as AGIA, ACES, ELF, PPT, Stranded Gas Development Act, tariffs, sponsors, shippers, ANGDA, LNG, a hybrid version of net and gross taxes, the Palin-created Petroleum Systems Integrity Office, upstream, midstream, downstream are enough to give the reader a headache, even one who considers himself a reasonably intelligent person.
Interestingly, losing the lieutenant governor’s race in 2002 was actually beneficial for Gov. Palin. Then-Gov. Frank Murkowski offered Palin an opportunity to serve as chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) after her surprise showing in the 2002 political election. As the mayor of Wasilla, she had neither the campaign funds nor the statewide familiarity of the other Republican candidates, yet she had finished a strong second in the primary, losing the lieutenant governor spot to Senate Majority Leader Loren Leman but attracting more votes than the former House speaker (considered by many to be the early favorite) and a veteran state Senator.
Since Palin was a rising star in the state Republican party, Murkowski first offered her a couple of other posts in his administration, but she turned them down; not so the AOGCC position because, as she says, “the oil and gas industry is the lifeblood of Alaska,” and she wanted to learn the intimate details of the business. She evidently studied, did a lot of homework and asked a lot of questions.
From some people’s perspectives, she did it too well because she discovered that “there was a whole lot of corruption going on.” After months of FBI investigations, several elected and appointed government officials and oil industry executives were sent to prison or paid large fines. Included was the chairman of the Alaska Republican party, Randy Ruedrich, who Palin turned in because of his blatant ethics violations while serving on the AOGCC.
Palin’s risky move earlier to resign from the AOGCC chairmanship certainly paid off as the people of Alaska realized she had acted in the state’s best interests (sound familiar?). Two years later, Sarah Palin was elected governor. And the experience gained from serving on the AOGCC was invaluable in directing negotiations with Big Oil as she changed the methods of evaluating and taxing oil companies and created a competitive, transparent bidding process for eventual construction of a new $40 billion natural gas pipeline, the largest privately-funded infrastructure project in North American history.
Below are quotes (from the book) by government and oil industry executives who observed firsthand the intelligence and leadership abilities of Gov. Palin – the state’s first female governor and youngest CEO – in transforming a system in two years that 30 years worth of male governors in Alaska had not been able to accomplish.
The Palin critics and sufferers of PDS (Palin Derangement Syndrome) should slowly read Sarah Takes On Big Oil and then have to explain to others why they think she is not one smart woman with an ability to grasp large, complex issues and then articulate them in understandable terms.
* A Big 3 Oil Company executive, who asked not be identified, said the oil companies largely got their way in dealing with state-government officials during the Murkowski years as Alaska governor. [Note: The Big 3 are ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP.]
As soon as Sarah Palin was elected governor, though, the executive told Petroleum News, “Now they (the oil companies) have got Sarah Palin (to deal with). And they’re in for the surprise of their lives. She’s as tough as any of their own negotiators, even Massey (Martin Massey, ExxonMobil)………She’s going to get the best deal she can for Alaska. It’s a sea change in how things are done up here.”
* State Rep. Eric Croft, an Anchorage Democrat and also a 2006 candidate for governor, called Palin a “bright and honest” person and predicted she would be a popular candidate during the election process that year.
“Sarah has been a leader in trying to restore ethical government to Alaska,” Croft said. “I think that’s badly needed. I think Sarah is very popular with the rank-and-file Republicans; she’s just unpopular with the corrupt leadership they have. I hope she doesn’t let their antagonism stop her from cleaning up the party.”
[Note: The Alaska Republican Party showed their antagonism by providing Palin with a grand total of only $5,500 in her general-election race against former two-term Democratic Governor Tony Knowles after she had knocked off incumbent Republican Gov. and former 20-year U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski in the primary.]
* Dan Seamount, one of two commissioners who served with Sarah Palin in 2003 and early ‘04 on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said Palin is “pro-development, not pro-industry.” He said, “She’ll tell you: ‘My boss is the people of Alaska.’ She’s smart, a quick study. Her adversaries’ biggest mistake is underestimating her intelligence, her understanding of issues. And she uses their arrogance against them.”
* MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. (part of Warren Buffett’s Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc.) was one of the corporations that decided not to apply to build a natural gas pipeline and compete against TransCanada under AGIA (Alaska Gasline Inducement Act) after being involved in attempts to move a gas pipeline forward under the Murkowski administration.
In a letter dated November 30, 2007, David Sokol, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer and a highly-respected business leader whose name has been popping up lately as a possible successor to Buffett (the world-renowned 79-year-old investment icon), referred to the corruption scandal gripping the state when he said, “The deepening and ongoing investigations into political and corporate corruption in Alaska make a thorough and thoughtful proposal in compliance with AGIA an unrealistic exercise for our organization.”
However, Sokol said he did not consider Gov. Palin’s administration to be the problem: “…your leadership and that of your administration have been outstanding,” he wrote, “and your integrity and transparent style are a breath of fresh air in what has proven to be a rather shady and smoke-filled past in regard to energy issues in Alaska.”
* Pat Galvin, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Revenue, on how it is to work with Gov. Palin: “For us she’s been very positive,” he said in 2008. “She’s what you’d always want in a CEO in the sense that she provides clear direction in terms of the policy that she’s trying to accomplish. And she participates in the discussions as a member of the team. She doesn’t…waltz into the room (and) lord over the discussion…She sits in and engages and listens and takes in information and asks questions, and then makes an assessment of the situation – a decision.”
* Tom Irwin, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, had been fired from his post in 2005 after a disagreement with Gov. Murkowski but then was brought back by Gov. Palin after she was elected, along with several others who had quit in protest to Murkowski’s dismissal of Irwin. For an interview with Petroleum News in the fall of 2008, Irwin reflected on Gov. Palin’s leadership style: “I am a conservative Republican. I sometimes wonder where my party has gone, but my governor, Sarah Palin, is bringing it back.
“She’s a real leader,” he said. “You can disagree …and argue, and we have some hellacious arguments, but never shouting, never to the point you’re being disrespectful. “And when she has to make an unpopular decision that might reflect poorly on herself, she says, ‘I don’t care if I take a political hit. We’re going to do what’s right for Alaska.’…
“What you’re allowed to do with this type of leadership is…it allows you a process where a multitude of heads can get the right answer…Now don’t misunderstand. This is not management by committee…She allowed us to feel we worked with her, but make no doubt about it, she understood it and she was the decision-maker…It’s a management style that’s rarely found but hugely successful…
“I think a really good manager has to be grounded in fundamentals. Our governor is grounded in honesty, integrity, her faith and an understanding of the Constitution…I’ve never seen her once, ever, come close to the bright line of wanting to violate those.”
* Marty Rutherford, veteran deputy commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, also was part of the group brought back into state government after Palin was elected Alaska’s governor. “She (Palin) is directed by facts,” Rutherford said. “She campaigned on a gross tax, but at some point we determined that the best way to go was a net tax, a tax on the profits. We had to drag her kicking and screaming to that conclusion. But she let the facts guide her…
“I enjoy working with Gov. Palin. She sets the vision and then lets you do the work. She’s responsive to arguments, to debate…I’m pretty cynical. I’ve worked with several governors. This is the first time I can say I am really quite fond of my governor…
“So many governors make decisions on ‘not what’s best for the people of the state, but how it will make them look’…When she’s in a room with you and she leaves the room to meet with the press, it’s not ‘show time.’ She’s the same person outside that room as she was inside it.”