Sarah Palin to be energy independence chief in John McCain’s government
September 6, 2008
The Republican presidential candidate will make his running mate the public face of the country’s drive for energy independence, according to a McCain campaign official.
Mr McCain, whose selection of Mrs Palin has electrified Republican supporters, wants to capitalise on her expertise in the oil and gas sector while governor of Alaska. He believes that her record of taking on oil company chiefs will help convince the public that his government would not be in the pocket of energy fat cats, a perception that has damaged George W.Bush’s poll ratings.
The move would give Mr McCain political cover to resume widespread domestic drilling for oil, even in areas of environmental fragility.
Mrs Palin backs drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which Mr McCain has previously opposed. Should he decide to reverse that position he will use Mrs Palin to make the case that it is necessary.
The campaign official said: “The Democrats say that Governor Palin is inexperienced, but she has vast experience in the energy sector. She will be at the forefront of the push for energy independence. She’s popular and she’s very persuasive.” A Republican Party official, who has discussed Mrs Palin’s role with members of Mr McCain’s team, added: “She can say: ‘I’m from Alaska. I know all about this and I support drilling, even in ANWR.”
Mr McCain discussed the role Mrs Palin would play in government as well as the election campaign when he held a three-hour getting-to-know-you session two weeks ago.
To assuage angry green activists, the prospective vice president will also be charged with overseeing a dramatic increase in federal support for the development of clean coal and electric car technology, as well as the spread of wind and solar power.
As Governor of Alaska, Mrs Palin oversaw the creation of a $40billion natural gas pipeline, against the wishes of the oil giants, and forced those same companies to relinquish licences to drill on land that they had left idle.
Mr McCain’s support for drilling, which Democrats ridicule for offering little hope of quickly lowering fuel prices, enjoys overwhelming support from US voters.
During her speech last week, Mrs Palin said the Alaskan gas pipeline would “help lead America to energy independence”.
She added: “The fact that drilling won’t solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all. Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we’re going to lay more pipelines… build more nuclear plants… create jobs with clean coal … and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal and other alternative sources.”
Clark Judge, who wrote speeches for President Ronald Reagan and now heads the White House Writers Group, a Washington public affairs company, said such an appointment would be a logical use of Mrs Palin’s expertise and record of standing up to special interests.
“No one has more experience of getting oil out of the ground and to the market than Sarah Palin,” he said. “It is the issue that most distinctively divides the two parties and it is one that has proved popular for Senator McCain.
“No political figure in the US has more experience of taking on privilege and vested interests than Sarah Palin.”
Finding a substantial role for Mrs Palin is just one of Mr McCain’s plans for government. Campaign officials say that Joe Lieberman, the independent democrat who spoke at the Republican convention on Tuesday night, has been promised a job in Mr McCain’s cabinet.
Mr Lieberman is pencilled in to become Secretary of State or Defence Secretary in what insiders say will be a “government of national unity on foreign affairs”.
Mr McCain has been seriously considering naming senior cabinet posts before the election, to emphasise the breadth and experience of his team and demonstrate that he plans to reach across the political aisle.