Keystone Pipeline Decision: Obama Throws Clinton, American Workers, Consumers and the Environment Under the Bus
When, on November 9th President Obama announced that it was delaying the construction of the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline that would bring in more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf coast, it was a giant slap in the face to the President’s self-proclaimed ideal of putting sound science above politics when making economic and environmental policy decisions.
It was also a blow to consumers, American workers (including labor unions which backed the pipeline), then environment and Hillary Clinton. The President’s decision was purely political.
How was it political, let me count the ways. First, in August the State Department issued a multi-thousand page report which took years of research, compilation and coordination to produce which concluded definitively that the Keystone pipeline would be safe – it would have “no significant impacts.”
Shortly after the report was issued, David L. Goldwyn, who had served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy
Affairs, said that Clinton would likely approve plans for the Keystone pipeline
to deliver oil from Canada’s tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast. His assessment was: “I think that balancing jobs, energy security — a country which has increased production potentially the size of Libya — I think the case for a pipeline is overwhelming, and she will approve it.”
And in the face of then recently begun sit/camp-ins and protests outside of the White House the President had his Pontius Pilate moment and seemed to wash his hands of any role in the decision indicating that he would follow the science, and let the State Department, meaning Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, make the decision.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the decision. The protests ramped up after the State Department’s report. Movie stars – including previous Obama supporters – joined in. Environmentalists were already upset with the president for failing to push hard for major climate and energy legislation when Democrats had majorities in both houses of
Congress. They also were shocked and dismayed when he delayed tougher EPA smog regulations until after the election – note that last part “until after the next election,” because it’s key.
It seems clear at this point that 2012 presidential election is likely to be close. As such, President Obama will need the support of environmentalists, a key part of the Democratic base. So the president’s move to delay his controversial decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until beyond Election Day 2012 isn’t really a shocker, and the White House, for what its worth (not much!), denies that politics played a role in the decision.
It also doesn’t hurt that in having the Hillary Clinton’s state department – the agency that’s own report made it clear the pipeline would be safe – the President threw Hillary,
his only rival for the Presidency within the party, under the bus. After she has repeatedly remained loyal to him while his decisions have rankled her, he betrays her in a big way.
The real losers, however, are the American public, national security and, perhaps surprisingly, the environment.
So much for the President’s oft repeated claim that creating jobs is the most important goal right now. This delay in access to easy imports from Canada means we’ll be importing more oil from unreliable governments in the Middle East. In addition, it means the U.S. is foregoing the creation of thousands of jobs, and the generation of revenue for the states where the pipeline passes. Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas are collectively projected to collect as much as $5.2 billion in property tax revenue alone as a result of
building the pipeline.
The truly sad thing is, we already have 50,000 miles of oil pipeline in this country that have provided incredible economic benefits in terms of low energy prices, tens of thousands of jobs with minimal environmental harm. And the Keystone XL pipeline would have been built with the safest, most state of the art technologies and materials with numerous safeguards in place. In other words, building the Keystone XL pipeline relatively routine and would be one of the most environmentally
sensible ways to transport oil.
Ironically, Obama’s decision is actually likely to increase the environmental harm the tar sands oil that Keystone XL would have been carrying. Just because the United States
isn’t moving forward with the pipeline doesn’t mean the oil is going to stay in the ground. Rather, there are already plans in the works to build the pipeline to Canada’s west coast. To expand the ports there and to ship the oil by super-tanker (one of the, if not the, least environmentally safe modes of oil transport) thousands of miles to China, where it would be refined at dirtier chemical and oil refineries that those on the Texas Coast. Oil still used, pipeline still built, increased dangers of spills, increased pollution from the refining process and substantially greater greenhouse gas emissions due to the use of fossil fuel burning super-tankers (which usually burn particularly dirty marine bunker fuel) to ship the fuel.
HOORAY for the environment!