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Sarah Palin: Is she spinning her record in Alaska politics?

Craig Medred

The amazing thing -- when you watch Sarah Palin from a distance as an Alaskan -- are the words that come from the mouth of the state's one-time governor, if, of course, the "lamestream media'' can be believed.

Here, according to a several sources in the lamestream media, is one of the things she said in Pella, Iowa, on Tuesday where a pro-Palin documentary, "The Undefeated," was playing:

"I'm very grateful that someone would bother to go to these efforts to make a documentary about the record of my team in Alaska that worked so hard for energy security and ethics reform and privatizing businesses that should never be in government's hands.''

Palin, everyone in Alaska in general agrees, did help push through ethics reform as governor. But the references to "energy security'' and "privatizing businesses" are head-scratchers. Why? Because in Alaska, the government owns:

-The only railroad, the Alaska Railroad.

-The only spaceport, the Kodiak Launch Complex. (I bet most of America didn't even known Alaska had a spaceport.)

-One of the biggest investment banks, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.

-The marketing organization for the state's huge seafood industry, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

-The only major university, the University of Alaska.

And more. The state would own the oil industry if it could.

But in America, unlike in Saudi Arabia, a government takeover of that business isn't possible. So, under Palin, the state simply taxed the oil industry to the limit. And why did the state tax the oil industry to the limit? So Alaskans wouldn't need to pay any state personal income or sales taxes, and so the government could actually give them money instead. Every Alaskan -- rich or poor, newborn infant or doddering old fool -- gets an annual check (usually more than $1,000 and up to $3,269 in 2008, which included an energy rebate that year) from the government. It is called a Permanent Fund dividend, and it is what Alaskans consider their "fair share'' of Alaska's oil, though most Alaskans did absolutely nothing to produce this oil.

Palin herself called the new tax she imposed on the oil industry Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share, or ACES. It netted the state billions in "surplus" revenues at a time of stratospheric oil prices.

Under Palin, when Alaska was imposing these big, new taxes on the oil industry in 2008, U.S. Congress was refusing to follow suit.

The reason, according to those who opposed new oil taxes in Washington, D.C., was that the increases would discourage the search for new oil and threaten "energy security'' -- the same energy security Palin now says she "worked so hard'' to ensure for somebody.

Maybe the residents of North Dakota. Since Palin and the Democrat-led Alaska legislature imposed the new taxes on the oil industry in Alaska, North Dakota has seen an oil boom.

Alaska oil production, meanwhile, has continued to decline. The state, which is still raking in big bucks from the oil industry, is now locked in a debate about whether the tax structure has stifled new oil production. There is no definitive answer on that, but it is clear Alaska's energy future is no more secure today than it was before Palin became governor. Part of the problem is that the oil fields on state land are running dry and there aren't any Prudhoe-size discoveries left. Perhaps Palin thought -- like state Democrats -- that it was best to milk the aging fields for all the taxes the state could while prices were high.

That could provide some sort of monetary security for Alaska in the form of an over-stuffed state bank acccount, but "energy security?'' So maybe she was talking about something she did to ensure national "energy security.''

When Palin became governor, there was progress being made on construction of a multibillion-dollar Alaska natural gas pipeline to Alberta, Canada, to connect to the North American gas pipleine system to move gas to the Lower 48 to provide the country a large supply of that energy. The program was being spearheaded by private industry. Palin got the government to take over the plan under her Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. The Alaska Legislature, reeling from a sweeping oil-political scandal, backed Palin's deal because it was the politically correct thing to do at the time. AGIA, as the law was commonly called, was an attempt at a government takeover of business; it was anti-privatization. Republican state lawmakers have since come under fire for trying to ease the government out of this gasline business.

The state-sponsored gas pipeline, which was to give up to $500 million in subsidies to a Canadian pipeline builder, now isn't going anywhere, and no one expects it to leap to life. The free market has significantly altered prices for natural gas in the past four years, making the idea of any Alaska government-backed pipeline unlikely. There is some thought in Juneau, the state capital, that Palin's successor, Gov. Sean Parnell, might at some point even dump the whole AGIA idea and move to re-privatize the gasline.

Meanwhile, the search is on for the businesses Palin privatized while she was governor.

Alaska Dispatch encourages a diversity of opinion and community perspectives. The opinions expressed herein are those of the contributor and are not necessarily endorsed or condoned by Alaska Dispatch. Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com.