Muckraker: Grist on Politics

On Wednesday, John McCain told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that his VP pick Sarah Palin is “probably one of the foremost experts in this nation on energy issues,” and reaffirmed his desire to put her in charge of energy policy in his administration.

But on Thursday, Palin once again mangled the facts about energy issues, wrongly asserting to a crowd in Wisconsin that there’s some sort of congressional ban on oil exports.

A crowd member told her he had heard that 75 percent of Alaska’s oil is being sold to China, and if that’s true, he wanted to know why.

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“No. It’s not 75 percent of our oil being exported,” Palin said, suggesting that some of Alaska’s oil is going abroad, but not that much, according to the Associated Press.

“In fact, Congress is pretty strict on, um, export bans of oil and gas especially,” she continued.

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The AP reporter fact-checked the assertion:

No Alaska oil has been exported since 2004, and little if any since 2000, according to the Energy Information Administration and the Congressional Research Service.

And Congress has never imposed outright bans on oil exports. Congress prohibited exports of Alaska oil in 1973 when the Alaska oil pipeline was built. But that ban was lifted in 1996 when there were large volumes of Alaska oil coming down from the North Slope and U.S. demand was soft.

The Alaska ban has never been reinstated.

Though natural gas exports must be approved by the Energy Department, there isn’t the same stipulation for oil. According to the Energy Information Administration, more than 95 million barrels of Alaskan oil — or about 2.7 percent of the total produced in Alaska — were exported between 1996 and 2004, the majority of it to South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan. The EIA states that there have been no Alaskan oil exports since 2004, but that’s not because of any congressional restriction on exports.

This isn’t the first time that Palin has misstated the facts about Alaska and energy supplies. Last month, she claimed that Alaska provides “20 percent” of the nation’s energy. In fact, it provides just 3.5 percent, and several fact-checking sites have since thoroughly debunked her claim. And the natural-gas pipeline she keeps touting as evidence of her success in energy policy? It only exists on paper, and the necessary federal approval is still years away.