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“For a $30 billion project, it is pretty important to understand the economics of the project pretty far in advance,” he said. “It should be reasonable to at least agree in advance not to change the rules during the game. That is, after all, what Hugo Chavez has become famous for. And Palin’s threats to tear up existing contracts with Exxon do provide a cause for concern.”

Despite her having campaigned on independence from Big Oil, the oil companies seem confident that the governor and state legislators eventually will provide further concessions on taxes once they understand how essential they are for the project to succeed.

“Everybody recognizes there will have to be more discussion on fiscal terms” in two to three years when the pipeline companies start lining up customers, the off-the-record oil official said. In the meantime, the companies are trying to come up with more exact figures on how much the project will cost over the decade it will take to build.

“When we had talked with the governor’s staff, they said they would like to see good cost estimates before talking further about terms,” the official said.

Martin Hutchinson, an analyst with, a British financial-analysis firm, said Alaska is swimming in revenues as a result of Mrs. Palin’s oil-tax increases. About 85 percent of the state’s budget is funded by oil revenues.

The governor does not deserve the praise she receives from many Republicans for her strong fiscal record, Mr. Hutchinson contended. “2008 revenues were 40 percent above forecast, making budgeting easy,” he said. “Palin’s budget prowess only qualifies her to replace someone like Hugo Chavez.”

Andrew Leonard, a writer with, said “the right wing is probably going a little overboard on the Venezuelan comparison - just as is the left, in its efforts to plug Palin into a familiar Bush-Cheney energy framework.”

He said he suspects that Mr. McCain picked Mrs. Palin because the longtime party maverick “became infatuated with the narrative of the pro-drilling, anti-Big Oil governor.”