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Keystone XL fails in Senate

Keystone XL fails in Senate

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) threw a Hail Mary pass to save her seat in the December runoff election, and her fellow Democrats didn’t even bother pretending to try to catch it.  Landrieu’s bill to get the Keystone XL pipeline moving was blocked by Democrats on Tuesday afternoon, as reported by the Washington Post:

Senate Democrats blocked a move Tuesday to compel construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a sharp loss to one of their own, Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), who had pinned her chances for reelection on approval of the measure.

The vote was a victory for environmental activists who have turned defeat of the pipeline into one of the central symbolic causes of their movement. But Republicans, who will take majority control of the Senate in the next Congress, vowed to return to the fight next year.

On a 59 to 41 roll call, Landrieu’s campaign fell one vote shy of passing legislation meant to force President Obama to approve the nearly 1,700-mile, $7.6 billion project, which would deliver 830,000 barrels of oil a day from western Canada to the American heartland. With just 14 Democrats backing it, Landrieu’s bill fell victim to a filibuster by her own party. All 45 Republicans voted for the measure.

In rejecting the bill, the Senate has granted Obama a temporary reprieve from a difficult decision: whether to side with the environmentalists who have been his staunch allies or with many moderate Democrats who hope to use the issue to win over swing voters.

Not to mention siding with the huge majority of Americans who want the Keystone XL pipeline built.  Come to think of it, it’s funny the Washington Post didn’t mention that, isn’t it?  Although Landrieu herself did, when she said the Keystone project was “for Americans, for an American middle class.”  According to Mary Landrieu, her party just voted against the American middle class.

The vote is viewed entirely through the lens of Landrieu’s gloomy political future in the Post article, along with a summary of the argument that inadvertently (and accurately) makes opponents of Keystone XL sound like loons…

Supporters argue that the new pipeline would lead to more efficient delivery of oil into domestic markets, helping secure a reliable source of energy, boosting the national economy and creating jobs tied to the pipeline’s construction. Opponents say it would facilitate the harvesting of oil from the environmentally dirty tar sands in Canada, leading to health risks, and would come online as domestic oil production is already booming.

(Newsflash: that oil is coming out of the Canadian tar sands whether we build Keystone or not.  The only question is where it goes, and how it gets there.)  Also, there’s a bit of prognosticating about the future of the project, which is one of the easiest political predictions you could make right now: it’s going to be back once the Republican Senate is seated, and this time it will pass, with the only question being whether or not Republican leaders can put together enough votes to override Obama’s veto.  As Republican Senate candidate Bill Cassidy – currently a congressman, and sponsor of the Keystone bill that recently passed in the House – can explain to Louisiana voters, that task will be easier without Mary Landrieu – by her own admission, this is the hardest of hardcore partisan political games, in which the needs of the American people aren’t even on the Democrat radar screen.

The Post suggests Republicans might cut deals with a few Democrats to reach a veto-busting supermajority.  That would be an exceptionally foolish move on the GOP leadership’s part.  Let the Democrats choke on their blind subservience to radical environmentalists.  It’s long past time for the American people to learn more about one of the most powerful special interest lobbies in Washington.  Of course, they’re never described that way in the media, which makes a big, popular issue like Keystone the perfect platform to bypass those “gatekeepers” and tell the public why their pipeline is in limbo.

Working the Keystone issue without much help from Democrats is also a great way to put pressure on a significant fault line in their party coalition, because the interests of labor (organized and otherwise) run directly counter to Green ideology.  Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, issued a fiery denunciation of the Democrat vote on Tuesday evening, chipping a few rhetorical cents into the Save Mary Landrieu campaign at the end:

Today’s failure of the U.S. Senate to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline is a vote against all construction workers, a vote to keep good, middle-class jobs locked out of reach and a vote to continue to rely on nations that hate America for our energy.

As the White House politicized the construction of the pipeline, 41 Senate Democrats cowardly stepped in line, throwing one of their own colleagues, Sen. Mary Landrieu, along with hard working blue-collar construction workers under the bus.

That Democrats would block the pipeline’s approval in spite of the fact that repeated environmental impact statements have all concluded that the Keystone XL will have no appreciable impact on greenhouse gas emissions, leaves us disillusioned, disgusted and exasperated with the current majority party and it leaves no doubt as to why they will soon be the minority party.  Continued pandering to environmental extremists, who want to hamper the American economy and destroy jobs is a recipe for continued election losses.

The majority of Democrats in the Senate and the White House just don’t get it, even though the recent election results surely should have sunk in by now. They have lost their way, their purpose and their base.

Americans want action, they want jobs and they want leadership. Today’s Senate vote demonstrated none of the above. To be relevant with the working class, Democratic leaders in Washington should put job creation and the livelihoods of working men and women ahead of the ravings of environmental wing-nuts and their deep pocketed billionaire funders.  They should get out and meet the men and women who need real jobs and stop putting politics before people.   If they cannot cast a vote for us, we cannot, and will not, cast a vote for them.

LIUNA applauds Senator Landrieu and her colleagues who have stood up for this project and our members.  The men and women of our union appreciate their support.

If you want Keystone built, you support Republicans, period.  Simple as that.  Many of these pretenses of support from Democrats will melt away if they become the decisive vote to override Obama’s veto.  If that moment arrives next year, you can bet a few pro-pipeline Dems will suddenly “discover” some troubling white paper from an environmentalist lobbying organization that “persuade” them to switch sides and agree with Obama that another six years of dithering and redundant studies are needed.

Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute reviewed the existing studies and pronounced Keystone XL a “no-brainer,” noting that all of those studies have concluded the pipeline is the least environmentally-damaging method of moving that oil – it’s a proven technology that already exists in quantities thousands of times greater than what this new project would add.  In fact, roughly half of the total Keystone run has already been built:

The whole notion that the KXL is some kind of unique or major threat to the national interest is laughable. About 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines already criss-cross the lower 48. How could laying another 875 miles of pipe push the network over some kind of national interest ‘tipping point’?

During its six-plus years of indecision, the State Department has conducted four major reviews – a Draft Environmental Impact State or EIS (April 2010), a Final EIS (August 2011), a Draft Supplemental EIS (March 2013), and a Final Supplemental EIS (Jan. 2014). The big-picture conclusion is always the same. Under the “No Action Alternative” (i.e. the project is not built and operated), Canadian crude still reaches Gulf Coast refineries, except it does so by other routes — rail, barge, smaller pipelines — that are less efficient, have greater oil spill risk, and emit more carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of oil delivered.

The relevant charts are in my previously-postedPower Point presentation. To recap, compared to the KXL, alternative modes for delivering Canadian crude to Gulf Coast refineries are estimated, annually, to emit 28% to 42% more CO2 and spill 136% to 794% more barrels of oil.

A few years ago it was at least plausible to deny that Canadian crude would find its way to market by rail if the pipeline were blocked. Yet Keystone foes, such as former President Jimmy Carter and nine other Nobel Peace Prize winners, continue to make that claim even though events have thoroughly refuted it.

Thousands of good jobs, and vast new quantities of oil, are a ridiculously high price to pay so a bunch of New Age nuts can feel better about themselves.  The dirty little secret of Keystone is that many of its opponents are well aware of the points made by Lewis, but they know the psychology of the Green movement is too fragile to survive defeat on this issue.  The American people have been forced to pay billions in tithe to the weird environmentalist religion; now we’re paying for their psychotherapy, too.

Would passage of Landrieu’s Keystone XL bill have saved her Senate seat?  That’s a highly debatable proposition, although I think the Washington Post report accurately reflects how much she thought it would mean.  I doubt she’s going to get enough credit for trying to make a difference in December, especially if Cassidy plays his cards right.  The bigger question is how much punishment Democrats are prepared to take over the next two years to keep the construction machines idle… and the construction workers un-hired.  Republicans shouldn’t make things easier on them by giving Democrats any concessions to purchase their votes.  In fact, this is the kind of issue a determined Party can use to argue for holding the Senate and gaining the White House in 2016.  The Keystone blockade is an Obama relic that few of his prospective Democrat successors would relish defending.  Let them go to work on wavering senators, and let’s see how close we can get to a veto-proof vote without Republicans giving up a dime of incentives.


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