Fact-Checking Palin: On Energy
- 09-17-2008, 04:34 PM
Fact-Checking Palin: On Energy
September 12, 2008
Updated: September 17, 2008
Palin says Alaska supplies 20 percent of U.S. energy. Not true. Not even close.
Palin claims Alaska "produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy." That's not true.
Alaska did produce 14 percent of all the oil from U.S. wells last year, but that's a far cry from all the "energy" produced in the U.S.
Alaska's share of domestic energy production was 3.5 percent, according to the official figures kept by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
And if by "supply" Palin meant all the energy consumed in the U.S., and not just produced here, then Alaska's production accounted for only 2.4 percent.
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin sat down with ABC News' Charlie Gibson for an interview, part of which aired Sept. 11. In the exchange, the Alaska governor misstated a basic fact about her state's energy production:
Palin: Let me speak specifically about a credential that I do bring to this table, Charlie, and that's with the energy independence that I've been working on for these years as the governor of this state that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy, that I worked on as chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, overseeing the oil and gas development in our state to produce more for the United States.
It's simply untrue that Alaska produces anything close to 20 percent of the U.S. "energy supply," a term that is generally defined as energy consumed. That category includes power produced in the U.S. by nuclear, coal, hydroelectric dams and other means – as well as all the oil imported into the country.
Palin would have been correct to say that Alaska produces just over 14 percent of all the oil produced in the U.S., leaving out imports and leaving out other forms of power. According to the federal government's Energy Information Administration, Alaskan wells produced 263.6 million barrels of oil in 2007, or 14.3 percent of the total U.S. production of 1.8 billion barrels.
But Alaskan production accounts for only 4.8 percent of all the crude oil and petroleum products supplied to the U.S. in 2007, counting both domestic production and imports from other nations. According to EIA, the total supply was just over 5.5 billion barrels in 2007.
Furthermore, Palin said "energy," not "oil," so she was actually much further off the mark. According to EIA, Alaska actually produced 2,417.1 trillion BTUs [British Thermal Units] of energy in 2005, the last year for which full state numbers are available. That's equal to just 3.5 percent of the country's domestic energy production.
And according to EIA analyst Paul Hess, that would calculate to only "2.4 percent of the 100,368.6 trillion BTUs the U.S. consumes."
Palin didn't make clear whether she was talking about Alaska's share of all the energy produced in the U.S. or all the energy consumed here. Either way, she was wrong.
McCain Gets It Wrong, Too
Sen. John McCain has also has used this inflated, incorrect figure. On Sept. 3, McCain told ABC News' Gibson:
McCain: Well, I think Americans are going to be very, very, very pleased. This is a very dynamic person. [Palin's] been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20 percent of America's energy supply.
McCain repeated the false figure more recently, in a September 11 interview with Portland, Maine, news station WCSH6.
Footnote: When we asked the McCain campaign where the 20 percent figure came from, we were referred to the Web site of the Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc, a group that says it promotes development of Alaska's natural resources. It states:
Alaska Resource Development Council: Alaska's oil and gas industry has produced more than 16 billion barrels of oil and 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas, accounting for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production.
This falls far short of supporting Palin's sweeping claim, however. It refers only to "oil and gas" production, not total energy. It refers only to production, not total consumption or supply. And the 20 percent figure is an "average" over many years, though the site does not say exactly how many. That makes it very much out of date, because Alaskan oil production has declined sharply in recent years. According to EIA figures Alaskan oil production has dropped 22 percent in the most recent five years alone.
And in case you are wondering, Alaska produces even less of the nation's natural gas than it does of its oil. EIA figures show Alaska accounted for just 1.9 percent of total U.S. natural gas production during the six months ending June 2008. And even that is dropping rapidly. The figure was 2.3 percent just two years earlier.
Update, Sept. 16: The Washington Post's Fact Checker reports that Palin has modified her claim, saying at a campaign appearance Sept. 15 that she oversees "20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of oil and gas." That's still wrong. The Fact Checker points out the correct number is 7.4 percent, according to EIA. See our post on The FactCheck Wire for more.
Update, Sept. 17: The Associated Press, in reporting on Palin's "inflated" energy claim, contacted the Alaska Resource Development Council and confirmed that its 20 percent figure is badly out of date. It quoted Carl Portman, the group's deputy director, as saying that the figure is an average for the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, which The AP noted was "long before Palin became governor at the end of 2006." Portman was quoted as saying his group "planned to update the site to make it more clear that the 20 percent figure is over a period of time."
And indeed, when we checked, the Web page had been changed to say that the state's oil and gas industry accounted "for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production (1980 - 2000). Currrently, Alaska accounts for nearly 15% of U.S. production." Even that 15 percent figure, however, is higher than the official statistics kept by the federal government, as we have already noted.
Also, in response to questions from some readers, we have written a post on The FactCheck Wire that explains our methodology.
–by Justin Bank
Milkowski, Stefan. "One Year Later, Palin Making Progress in Role of Governor," The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. 4 December 2007.
Gibson, Charlie. "Gibson Interviews John McCain," ABC News. 3 Sept 2008.
Gibson, Charlie. "Gibson Interviews Sarah Palin," ABC News. 11 Sept 2008.
Caldwell, Rob. "News Center Interviews John McCain," WCSH6 NBC Portland.
- 09-17-2008, 05:02 PM
end result: both tickets are lying like a rug and are trying to get away with it. I mean hell, McCain saying Obama was sex ed for kindergartners? and Obama quoting the 100 years in Iraq? I really wish for something better than this.
09-19-2008, 08:39 AM
You *REALLY* think the two campaigns are equivalent in this regard?
You REALLY think that whole "sex-kindergarten" sleaze-fest is just as valid - has as much factual basis - as McCain's statements about 100 years in Iraq?
Maybe I substantially misunderstanding something here (partisan bully-boys, kindly stand off): McCain is asked ON CAMERA about our open-ended commitment in Iraq, McCain sez (paraphrasing) 'Why not 50 years? Why not 100? I wouldn't have a problem with that & I don't know why you would.' Saying McCain 'wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years' is a stretch, absolutely - but it HAS a basis.
The McCain campaign intentionally twists the meaning of a piece of legislation (that never passed), manufactures a link of putative responsibility to Obama *AND* manipulates the whole thing to make the father of 2 young girls look like a pedophile.
And these two things are EQUIVALENT in your eyes? There's lots of fathers on this board, of all political stripes: if you tried to twist the love of ANY of these fathers in this way, based on no more substance, any one of them would gladly club you into the next life - and rightly so: even the most UNjustified whiff of something like that can cause a man to lose his children FOREVER...I came too close to losing my own daughter (through no fault of my own - *without* any suggestion of sexual impropriety), I can't be sanguine about this
But since we're talking about politicians, the worst get a pass & the best get the shaft? *Please* explain this to me, Bud - 'cause I just don't see it.
09-19-2008, 10:39 AM
Both are things that are taken out of context. Yes, McCain said 100 years, however the rest of what he said dealt with noncombat troops, in a similar fashion to what the US has done elsewhere in the world.
Obama spoke of identifying what a sexual predator was to kids in kindergarten, which in essence would be under a sex ed curriculum. Was he looking for sex ed for that age no, of course not, but it is sex ed curriculum
Hence, both being out of context. Hope we are clear
09-19-2008, 12:17 PM
Sorry you thought that was condescending: "Bud" is what I call my brother - of whom I'm very fond. 'Condescension' was quite the opposite of my intention (but I won't beat you up about taking me out of context)
So, if I get your point, exaggerating is the same as deliberately falsifying? And all such are to be judged on a flat scale of 100% true / 100% false? 1% off is the same as 100% off, like Tucker Bounds and Karl Rove have been asserting?
NOT picking a fight with you on any of this: I'd rather talk TO you than AT you, so I want to make sure I have this clear.
09-19-2008, 01:04 PM
Please include the "McCain agrees with Limbaugh" on immigration.
I don't think you can have a more blatant lie than that one
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09-19-2008, 02:10 PM
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