Is Adam Smith’s invisible hand really just the hand of God, pushing stocks and bonds up and down like beads on an abacus? Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, seems to think so. Last June, she asked a group of youths at the Wasilla Assembly of God—the Pentecostal church she attended before becoming Alaska’s governor—to pray for a “$30-billion project that’s going to create a lot of jobs for Alaskans and will have a lot of energy flowing through here.” That very earthly project is a 2,500-km pipeline that will siphon Alaskan natural gas through the Yukon to the Alberta-B.C. border for dispatch to southern markets. “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built—so pray for that,” Palin told the assembled in video footage available on the Internet.
Some may laugh, but it looks like all that praying is paying off. Last month, just two days before filling McCain’s VP slot, Palin signed a law awarding the project and US$500 million in seed money to Calgary-based pipeline giant TransCanada Corp. Still, not everyone’s happy with the answer to Palin’s prayers: TransCanada’s rivals, BP PLC and ConocoPhillips Inc., are miffed because they see her plan as reneging on a deal they’d struck with Palin’s predecessor, and they want to build their own pipeline through a joint venture called Denali (something Palin conspicuously omitted from her Wasilla church chat).
That means the race for who will build Alaska’s natural gas pipeline is on—though Bill Gwozd of Ziff Energy Group Ltd. says the rivals will likely beat their swords into shovels. “They’re all playing in the same sandbox,” he says. “They have to get together and share.”
That’s probably fine with Palin, the lipstickwearing pit bull who took on big oil to push her plan through. After all, she cares less about who wins than getting the best deal for Alaskans. That means getting the gas flowing south soon—and, God willing, getting those greenbacks flowing up north. M
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