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Al Jazeera

Palin's Connection To 'Big Oil'

Rob Winder

Palin says the US should (and can) drill its way out of dependence on foreign oil. She has presented herself as a challenger to corporate interests in Alaska, although that is because she believes the major energy companies have not acted swiftly enough in carrying out drilling and pipeline projects in the state.[GALLO/GETTY]

ST PAUL, Minn. - Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska who has shot to prominence as
John McCain's choice as running-mate, is best known as a passionate
believer in new oil and gas exploration, including in Alaska's National
Widelife Reserve - something McCain himself rejects.

But campaigners say she has a mixed record on her dealings with the
oil corporations to which the Republican party has so many historic

"There is no question that Palin's appointment as the Republican
vice-presidential candidate cements the fact that John McCain is the
candidate of big oil," Dan Weiss, a senior fellow at the Centre for
American Progress, a Washington-based think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

"She supports the agenda of big oil - of more drilling - and she opposes investments in clean and renewable energy," he said.

Palin has presented herself as a challenger to corporate interests
in Alaska, although that is because she believes the major energy
companies have not acted swiftly enough in carrying out drilling and
pipeline projects in the state.

Ending dependence

The Alaskan governor also sees more drilling of US oil reserves as a
way of ending US dependence on oil imports from the Middle East and

"I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can't drill our way out of our problem," she told Investor's Business Daily magazine earlier this year.

In 2006, she acted to renegotiate a deal with Exxon, BP and Conoco
Phillips to build a pipeline carrying natural gas from Alaska's North
Slope region across Canada to the US.

Palin also pushed for legislation to provide $500m in state funds to
the companies to act on the project and eventually agreed to give the
contract to TransCanada, a Canadian firm.

She also introduced a new tax on oil companies operating in Alaska
and went as far as saying she supported Barack Obama, the Democratic
candidate, when he proposed a windfall tax as part of his energy policy
earlier this year.

However, her husband, Todd Palin used to work for the British
Petroleum oil corporation in Alaska's North Slope region and she has
collected almost $13,000 from lobbyists connected to the oil industry,
reports say.

And Matt Gonzalez, environmentalist Ralph Nader's running-mate for
his presidential campaign in 2008, says Palin has characterised the
windfall tax in different ways depending on the audience and that she
has not taken on oil corporations in the way she has claimed.

"We know that the oil companies have been making profits that have
never been seen before, and the taxes that Palin has introduced are
trivial in comparison," he told Al Jazeera.


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Environmental concerns

Environmentalists have expressed concern about Palin's views on the causes of climate change.

"A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other
state, because of our location. I'm not one, though, who would
attribute it to being man-made," she said in an interview in August
this year.

Palin, a keen hunter, has also threatened to sue the US government
over its ruling on having the polar bear designated as an endangered
species and opposed protection for salmon threatened by pollution from
the mining industry.

The Palin connection has worried campaigners already concerned
about McCain's ties to large oil firms that have led to him being
dubbed "Exxon John" by Democrats.

McCain has received more than $1.5m from oil and gas interests for
his presidential campaign, nearly four times more than the amount Obama
has taken, according to figures up to July from the Centre for
Responsive Politics.

Lobbying power

At this year's Republican National Convention, the power of the oil lobbying firms was on display.

Haly Barbour, the governor of the state
of Mississippi, hosted a lavish party for executives from the American
Petroleum Institute to meet Republicans on Tuesday, an event targeted
by protesters and activists.

Randa Fahmyhudome, a former Bush administration energy official,
said Palin was right to call for drilling in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge.

"In America, we are world's number one consumer of petroleum in the
world and no-one knows better than Alaskans themselves what is good for
environment. We ought to look to Alaskans and Governor Palin on this
issue," she said.

"New technology will help us protect the environment while we develop these resources," she added.


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