Palin says Alaska supplies 20 percent of U.S. energy. Not true. Not even close.
Palin claims Alaska "produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy." That's
Alaska did produce 14 percent of all the oil from U.S. wells last year, but that's a far cry from all the "energy" produced
in the U.S.
Alaska's share of domestic energy production was 3.5 percent, according to the official figures kept by the U.S. Energy Information
And if by "supply" Palin meant all the energy consumed in the U.S., and not just produced here, then Alaska's
production accounted for only 2.4 percent.
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin sat down with ABC News' Charlie Gibson for an interview, part of
which aired Sept. 11. In the exchange, the Alaska governor misstated a basic fact about her
state's energy production:
Palin: Let me speak specifically about a credential that I do bring to this table, Charlie, and that's with the energy independence
that I've been working on for these years as the governor of this state that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S.
domestic supply of energy, that I worked on as chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, overseeing the oil
and gas development in our state to produce more for the United States.
It's simply untrue that Alaska produces anything close to 20 percent of the U.S.
"energy supply," a term that is generally defined as energy consumed. That category includes
power produced in the U.S. by nuclear, coal, hydroelectric dams and other means - as well as all the oil imported into the country.
Palin would have been correct to say that Alaska produces just over 14 percent of all the oilproduced
in the U.S., leaving out imports and leaving out other forms of power. According to the federal government's Energy Information Administration, Alaskan wells
produced 263.6 million barrels of oil in 2007, or
14.3 percent of the total U.S. production of 1.8 billion barrels.
But Alaskan production accounts for only 4.8 percent of all the crude oil and petroleum products supplied to the U.S. in 2007,
counting both domestic production and imports from other nations. According to EIA, the total supply was just over 5.5 billion
barrels in 2007.
Furthermore, Palin said "energy," not "oil," so she was actually much further off the mark. According to EIA, Alaska actually produced 2,417.1 trillion BTUs [British
Thermal Units] of energy in 2005, the last year for which full state numbers are available. That's equal to just 3.5 percent of the
country's domestic energy production.
And according to EIA analyst Paul Hess, that would calculate to only "2.4 percent of the 100,368.6 trillion BTUs the U.S. consumes."
Palin didn't make clear whether she was talking about Alaska's share of all the energy produced in the U.S. or all the energy
consumed here. Either way, she was wrong.
McCain Gets It Wrong, Too
Sen. John McCain has also has used this inflated, incorrect figure. On Sept. 3, McCain told ABC News'
McCain: Well, I think Americans are going to be very, very, very
pleased. This is a very dynamic person. [Palin's] been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20 percent of
America's energy supply.
McCain repeated the false figure more recently, in a September 11 interview with Portland, Maine, news station WCSH6.
Alaska Resource Development Council:
Alaska's oil and gas industry has produced more than 16 billion barrels of oil and 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas, accounting
for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production.
This falls far short of supporting Palin's sweeping claim, however. It refers
only to "oil and gas" production, not total energy. It refers only to production, not total consumption or supply. And the 20
percent figure is an "average" over many years, though the site does not say exactly how many. That makes it very much out of
date, because Alaskan oil production has declined sharply in recent years. According to EIA figures Alaskan oil production has dropped 22 percent in the most recent
five years alone.
Update, Sept. 16: The Washington Post's Fact Checker reports that Palin has modified her claim, saying at a
campaign appearance Sept. 15 that she oversees "20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of oil and gas." That's still wrong.
The Fact Checker points out the correct number is 7.4 percent, according to EIA. See our post on The FactCheck Wire for more.
Update, Sept. 17: The Associated
Press, in reporting on Palin's "inflated" energy claim, contacted the Alaska Resource Development Council and confirmed
that its 20 percent figure is badly out of date. It quoted Carl Portman, the group's deputy director, as saying that the figure is an
average for the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, which The AP noted was "long before Palin became governor at the end of 2006."
Portman was quoted as saying his group "planned to update the site to make it more clear that the 20 percent figure is over a period
And indeed, when we checked, the Web page had been changed to say that the
state's oil and gas industry accounted "for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production (1980 -
2000). Currrently, Alaska accounts for nearly 15% of U.S. production." Even that 15 percent figure, however, is higher than the
official statistics kept by the federal government, as we have already noted.
Also, in response to questions from some readers, we have written a post on The FactCheck
Wire that explains our methodology.
Milkowski, Stefan. "One Year Later, Palin Making Progress in Role of Governor," The Fairbanks Daily
News-Miner. 4 December 2007.