Palin Takes Credit for Decades-Old Pipeline Project That May Yet Fail

Friday, October 3, 2008

"We're building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline, which is North America's largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever, to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets."

-- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, vice presidential debate

Sarah Palin has often touted the pipeline deal as a singular achievement of her administration as Alaska governor. But she talks about it as if it is under construction, when it is still more glimmer than reality.

THE FACTS

The natural gas pipeline would travel more than 1,700 miles, delivering natural gas from Alaska to the rest of the United States. But the pipeline project, which dates from the 1970s, is still at least a decade from being built -- if it is built at all.

Not a single section of the pipeline has been laid. And some Alaskan lawmakers have begun to have second thoughts about Palin's approach to the project. When she became governor, she walked away from a deal negotiated by her predecessor with major oil companies, instead opening up the bidding in a way that would commit the state to pay a subsidy to offset costs and expenses. TransCanada Alaska Co. won the bid. Some estimates indicate the state could lose as much as $500 million on the deal pushed by Palin.

Doug Reynolds, an oil and gas economist at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, told the Dallas Morning News last month that Palin had given the pipeline project new momentum. But he also said her deal with TransCanada is useless unless there is also a deal with gas-producing companies to use the pipeline.

"We don't have an agreement. We don't have anything," Reynolds said.

If the project is completed in 10 years, it could handle 5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. The United States consumes about 60 billion cubic feet a day.

THE PINOCCHIO TEST

Palin was misleading when she suggested that a project that exists only on paper was already being built. This is only the latest version of a project that has been on the drawing boards for three decades -- and even under the best of circumstances would not be finished by the end of a McCain-Palin administration.

TWO PINOCCHIOS: Significant omissions or exaggerations.

-- Glenn Kessler


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