(3 of 3)
At its peak in the 1980s, the oil pipeline from the North Slope carried 2 million bbl. a day. The flow is now about a third of that, and supplies are projected to dwindle further. Alaska has seen these boom-and-bust cycles before. The "seal mines" of the Pribilof Islands, the salmon canneries, the Klondike gold rush--all these short-lived booms appealed to what New Deal--era Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes once derided as Alaska's "gambling spirit." Palin is now rolling the dice on the national stage with a political persona based in part on her willingness to challenge the big oil companies. To many Americans, it's an appealing pitch, and Palin's record suggests that she has stuck to her guns more than most. But it's also true that her zeal has produced mostly short-term political gains rather than lasting results--and she has been forced, in some cases, to do business with the same companies she originally sought to push to the sidelines. And that underlines a political reality as true in Washington as it is in Juneau: Fighting the system is a lot easier than actually beating it.