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 oil produced 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.
And John McCain was off the mark too.
Sen. John McCain has also has used this inflated, incorrect figure. On Sept. 3, McCain told ABC News' Gibson:
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.
Footnote: When we asked the McCain campaign where the 20 percent figure came from, we were referred to the Web site of the Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc, a group that says it promotes development of Alaska's natural resources. It states:
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.