Palin: A fading czar?

Since John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his number two, there’s been speculation about exactly how much influence the climate-denying, pro-drilling Alaskan governor would have on a McCain administration’s environmental policies. Fortunately, Palin has decided to clear things up for us: she’s announced that she would be McCain's energy czar, spearheading his administration’s “mission of energy security”.

That’s roughly the same slot filled by Dick Cheney during Bush’s first term: after spending three months conducting controversial behind-closed-doors meetings with Big Oil representatives, Cheney emerged to deliver a series of speeches dismissing environmentalists as wimps and calling for a massive expansion of the oil sector. Still, at least Cheney, as former CEO of Halliburton, knew - for better or worse - what he was talking about. Palin, it turns out, doesn’t know much more about energy policy than she does about the Bush doctrine.

In presenting Palin to the American people, McCain declared that she “knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America”, a claim that not even he could possibly have believed to have been true. Palin may be governor of an oil state, but her energy-policy achievements amount to little more than tinkering with Alaska’s oil taxes, talking up an as-yet-unbuilt pipeline and lobbying for increased drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Never mind that Palin has no national policy experience; she’s struggling even to keep tabs on her home state’s energy portfolio. In an interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, the vice-presidential candidate said that she’s qualified to lead because Alaska produces 20 percent of America’s energy. In fact, Palin’s home state supplies only about 3.4 percent of US energy; it looks as though Palin’s claim was based on figures from the 1980s, which probably speaks to how closely Palin has been following Alaskan energy policy since reaching the Governor’s mansion.

In any case, coming from an oil-producing state doesn’t necessarily qualify someone to handle federal energy policy. It’s worth remembering that George Bush’s home state of Texas is the country’s top-ranked energy producer, followed by Dick Cheney’s home state of Wyoming - and we all know how that’s turned out. Maybe this time around, we should try to judge our aspiring leaders by the policies they propose, not the states they call home.