September 12, 2008

Following the Palin pipeline

The New York Times ran a fairly substantial article yesterday on the proposed natural gas pipeline between Prudhoe Bay, AK and southern Alberta, the gist of which is that Sarah Palin massively overstated the current status of the project during her "masterwork" of a speech to the Republican faithful at their national convention.

That in itself is not surprising, as Gov. Palin has a demonstrated penchant for overstatement, exaggeration, and untruth.

A more significant aspect of the story is the second thoughts some Republican legislators in Alaska seem to be having for the process by which the State went about selecting the successful licensee, TransCanada Corp. of Calgary.

As I mentioned earlier, and the Times article isn't clear about, TransCanada was the only bidder. That appears to be at least one Alaska legislator's concern:
Lyda Green, a Republican and president of the State Senate, voted for Ms. Palin’s Alaska Gasline Inducement Act [AGIA] but said that in the interim, it has not “shown itself to be open and competitive, and it is a very expensive risk.”

“I regret the vote now,” she said last week.
In other words, the AGIA had the effect of excluding every potential bidder except for TransCanada.

While four other firms submitted applications, all were rejected for nonconformances with the AGIA. Two others declined to submit applications at all, and the oil companies that actually own the mining leases on the gas submitted alternate proposals which the Palin administration also rejected out of hand.

Therefore Alaska didn't even have one other bid with which to compare to TransCanada's on equal terms. That's an odd way of doing business, and most purchasing agents might revisit the terms of the request for bids to try and find some way to include more players in order to evaluate them on more closely competitive grounds.

Especially for a project of this size; that is, a massive one.

Now it turns out that one of Palin's top team members is a former lobbyist for Foothills Pipeline, Ltd., a subsidiary of TransCanada.

But, as the Times story suggests, a politician looks good running around shouting about standing up to "Big Oil." Except in this case, "Big Oil" is still very much in the game and Alaska may end up forking out $500 million without getting one stick of pipe in the ground.

And all of this, we are told, is the centerpiece of Gov. Palin's "executive experience." The Palin Doctrine, as it were.

Or, as the Report on Business puts it this morning, in discussing the project's Canadian hurdles, "The beauty of this from her point of view as a politician on the campaign trail in 2008 is that it could be years before anyone knows for sure."

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