The Keystone Conundrum


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It remains to be seen whether the House and the Senate can resolve their differences on the latest budget bill, but the Senate version promises to back the Obama administration into an uncomfortable corner with regard to the proposed Keystone XL pipleline. As part of Saturday’s 89 – 10 vote to extend payroll tax cuts for another two months, the Senate gave the president a sixty-day deadline to make a decision on the Keystone project. The White House had rejected the idea including outright approval of the project in the bill, but said that the two-month deadline was acceptable.

Assuming that the House and Senate can agree on a compromise bill, it’s likely that the Keystone provision will survive and that will be interesting. Obama has been loath to pick a side on the pipeline issue. On the one hand, if he kills the project, the president opens himself to criticism for denying Americans access to a plentiful source of North American crude and for losing this opportunity to create a plethora of jobs without spending any tax dollars. Yet, if he allows the project to move forward, Obama is sure to annoy the environmental activists who form part of his base.

It’s hard to believe that environmentalists have any other places to go in the coming election and it’s almost as unlikely that they would choose to stay home out of pure petulance over the pipeline. Nonetheless, the Obama team has always been ultra-cautious when it comes to its perceived base and this is another example of the phenomenon.

Pressed to make a decision on the pipeline, the president instead kicked this particular can down the road last month. The administration decided to study an alternative route for the pipeline, which would conveniently have delayed any decision until after the 2012 election. It was the best of two political worlds in a lot of ways. By postponing the decision, Obama could tell environmentalists that he was duly evaluating every bit of data before coming to a decision, while he could simultaneously claim not to have shut down the project out of hand.

By imposing a sixty-day deadline, the Senate bill would force the president to pick a side, something he clearly hates to do. If the budget bill goes through, as it seems destined to, the administration will be forced to decide who it is willing to offend. Environmentalists will be offended if Obama approves Keystone XL, while trade unions will be equally upset if he decided to kill it.

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  • oldtimer

    They preach save the environment, and how this pipeline will hurt. How many birds have /and continue to be killed by those hideous windmills? We need to drill our own oil. What made this country great was that we did it all, we needed no other countries. Lets get back to basics. Encourage manufactures to come back.

  • stern

    The environmentalist lobby has got the whole oil sands picture completely backwards. Let's consider.

    What are the oil sands? Huge bitumen deposits – sand literally soaked in oil.

    What does the industry do? It extracts the oil and, when an area has been cleaned out, leaves it in far better shape environmentally than they found it.

    In simple terms: the oil sands are nature's own oil spill. The oil sands industry cleans it up.

    • LibertyLover

      The environmental lobby does not care about the environment. They use environmental issues as a wedge to split-apart Americans so that they can force anti-industrial anti-American policies on the gullible public.

  • FriendofGaryCooper

    There is no way American should have to pay a penny more than $2 a gallon for
    gasoline. The Keystone XL pipeline would create 20,000 jobs, and make Canadian oil more readily available for U.S. refineries to turn into gasoline. Don't believe me? Look at what's going on in North Dakota–at the jobs created by the oil discovery up there. But far be it from Obama. or the EPA to do anything to help Americans. Let's impeach Obama'
    right away, and dismantle the Dept. of Energy.

    • dan

      RE: The DOE. Agree. If we look at a number of gubmint agencies performance over time, the results is less. DOE — obstructs domestic energy production (along with Interior); Education — worse results at higher and higher input costs; Labor — for exactly what pray tell?; Commerce — another for exactly what results pray tell? Justice — more and more laws passed protecting classes and groups, thus more growth in the "injustice" industry. And finally the EPA — ever pursuing and making the perfect (utopia) the enemy of the good.

  • Wesley69

    Whether the Congress suddenly has a revelation about the need to get secure, friendly sources of energy, while important, is being held hostage by a President who does everything with a poltical intention in mind. If he is reelected, he WILL transform this country. He is dedicated to Green Energy. This flirtation, if it is even that, will last only as long as the election.