EnergyBiz, a nicely done and growing trade magazine founded several years ago, features an opinion column in its September-October issue by vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, in which she makes the case for a big new natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the Lower 48â''â''the biggest construction project in the history of the United States.â'' In particular, Palin explains the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, which she got enacted immediately upon being elected governor. It established a competitive process for building the pipeline and limited the stateâ''s financial liability in the project to $500 million.
Palin may have blinked yesterday when ABCâ''s Charlie Gibson asked her whether she was really ready to be U.S. commander in chiefâ''actually she blinked several times even as she told Gibson the thought did not make her blinkâ''but her role in aggressively reorganizing the Alaska pipeline project arguably is the most substantial item in her resume and her finest moment so far. Though questions have been raised about some aspects of her role in the project, indisputably itâ''s an important projectâ''not merely of huge interest to Alaska, but of vital interest to the whole country.
Not to put a fine point on it, the Lower 48 need all the natural gas they can get. For every amount of electricity produced, natural gas generates half as much carbon as coal; this means that replacing any coal plant with a natural gas plant reduces carbon emissions from that plant by 50 percent. Natural gas also is a very attractive home heating fuel, superior to oil from most technical perspectives (cleaner, lower maintenance). Increasingly natural gas is used to fuel buses and fleet vehicles, from New York to Los Angeles, and as T. Boone Pickens has been pointing out, it can be a very attractive fuel for private cars as well. Not least, if dreams of a â''hydrogen economyâ'' ever comes to fruition, natural gas will be needed to feed the fuel cells.
In addition to pitching the pipelineâ''in an article she obviously wrote well before she had any inkling she might be on the Republican presidential ticketyâ''Palin argues for Congress to â''help Americans and Alaskans by streamlining access to [oil and gas] offshore resources.â'' She says that while ANWR may contain 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 10 billion barrels of oil, there are probably 24 billion barrels of oil offshore and perhaps 104 trillion cubic feet of gas. Thatâ''s enough gas she says to meet the entire U.S. demand for four and a half years.