Palin Backed Shipping Natural Gas To Japan

Jim Bowles, president of ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc., answers questions during a Jan. 3, 2008 press conference in Anchorage, where Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced an agreement between the state of Alaska and the oil industry to extend the federal export license for the LNG plant on the Kenai Peninsula. Steven Hinchmann, senior VP of worldwide production for Marathon Oil Corp., back, left, Tom Irwin Department of Natural Resources commissioner, and Gov. Sarah Palin, right, listen in the back. (AP Photo/Al Grillo) AP Photo/Al Grillo

On the campaign trail, Sarah Palin says repeatedly that America must tap its own natural gas and oil reserves to become energy-independent.

But the Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate has pushed the federal government to allow a liquefied natural gas plant to continue exporting to Asia - the only such plant in the United States that sends the product overseas.

"When we talk about energy, we have to consider the need to do all that we can to allow this nation to become energy-independent," Palin said earlier this month during the vice presidential debate.

"It's a nonsensical position that we are in when we have domestic supplies of energy all over this great land. And East Coast politicians who don't allow energy-producing states like Alaska to produce these, to tap into them, and instead we're relying on foreign countries to produce for us."

This summer, Palin cheered the Energy Department for extending an export license for the Kenai Liquefied Natural Gas facility. The license allowed the Alaska plant to continue shipping its products to Asia through 2011.

The plant began shipping its product exclusively to Japan in 1969, renewing federal export permits every few years. As energy prices have soared in recent years, and with supplies dwindling, there has been increased opposition to allowing the plant to export.

The current license extends a permit that otherwise would have expired in 2009.

"In these times of economic uncertainty, this is great news for the state and its residents," Palin said when the license was approved in June.

During negotiations, which began last year, Palin had pressed for enough natural gas to serve Alaska to remain in-state. She added, however, that the rest should be shipped primarily to Japan.

The license was granted despite opposition from some federal officials who argued that domestic liquefied natural gas should be sold within the U.S.

"If America is really so short of energy that we need to drill in national wildlife refuges and other sensitive areas, why should energy supplies, sitting in U.S. terminals, be sent back out of the country simply because these energy companies can get a higher price from a foreign buyer?" Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said.

The plant's owners, Marathon Oil Corp. and ConocoPhillips, had argued that U.S. terminals equipped to handle shipments of liquefied natural gas were too far away, on the East Coast, in the South or in Puerto Rico.

San Diego-based Sempra Energy opened a new $975 million terminal in Baja, Mexico, in May. Its pipelines connect to California, Texas and Arizona.

Volatile oil and gas prices and limited energy supplies have prompted a steady increase in U.S. use of liquefied natural gas.

But aside from Alaska, there is no domestic production.

So while the United States imported 771 billion cubic feet of natural gas last year from Trinidad and Tobago, Algeria, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Qatar, Alaska is expected to export 100 billion cubic feet to Asia over the next two years.
By AP National Writer Martha Mendoza
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