Key factions within the Democratic Party have been locked in a furious battle pitting jobs against the environment, with President Barack Obama in the hot seat to make the final call on a massive new pipeline project that also promises energy security.
The TransCanada Company wants to build the $13 billion Keystone XL pipeline to carry nearly 500,000 gallons of crude oil a day for consumption into the U.S.
Additionally, the project would create an estimated 20,000 jobs, plus another half a million indirect jobs within weeks of Obama’s approving the shovel-ready project, and bring hundreds of millions of dollars to local U.S. communities through property taxes.
But after nearly three years of environmental reviews, 39 months of waiting for Obama to approve the presidential permit, and new reports that the decision could again be pushed until after the election, TransCanada tells HUMAN EVENTS the delays could force them to sell their product elsewhere.
Specifically, to China.
“That will be for the industry to decide, but they’ve made it clear if the U.S. doesn’t want our oil, they will find a market for it in Asia,” said Shawn Howard, spokesman for TransCanada. “The demand there is massive.”
Although the Obama administration has insisted they would make a final decision on the pipeline by the end of this year, the State Department on Thursday punted that decision until 2013, to study now whether the entire state of Kansas should be bypassed.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R.-Ohio), chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, called the decision a “horrible shame” and that “Obama’s political problems have clearly trumped the country’s economic problems.”
“The Keystone pipeline has already been held up for more than three years, despite being deemed environmentally sound. Pushing this decision past the next election may appease President Obama’s ultra-liberal base, but it won’t help Americans struggling to find jobs and deal with the high cost of gas,” Jordon said.
Key to derailing the project are the “professional activists” in the environmental community spending millions of dollars to spread “false information” to defeat the pipeline, Howard said. “The opposition is very coordinated and very well funded,” Howard said. “They would like to spin this as big oil versus the little guy, but they have 60 registered lobbyists. They have outspent on lobbying and on a PR campaign and this is part of a very well-coordinated effort to defeat the pipeline in the mistaken belief that if they stop the pipeline they will cut off the ability to get more oil from Alberta.”
“It’s very much an anti-fossil-fuel movement and, as we’ve seen during the process, they have no issue with misrepresenting a project that is not even close to the truth. It’s designed to scare people. They follow a very predictable playbook that way,” Howard said.
Environmentalists have taken their case directly to the White House, conducting massive protests on Pennsylvania Avenue that have drawn thousands of demonstrators including some wealthy jetsetters, to protest just outside the gates.
Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus released a video in advance of a White House demonstration last weekend, accusing Obama of allowing “big oil” to be “still pretty much running the show.”
The “Seinfeld” actress and daughter of billionaire Gérard C. Louis-Dreyfus—one of the richest men in the world thanks in part to his crude oil-trading business—called the pipeline project a “brutally stupid, money-grab.”
Embracing 11 signs in front of the White House that spelled out “Occupy Earth” the activists on November 6 hoped to draw Obama’s attention to their cause, but the President was minding another green agenda out on a nearby golf course.
Actresses Margot Kidder and Daryl Hannah have been arrested at other pipeline protests at the White House this summer. Hannah was taken off in handcuffs by the U.S. Park Police after refusing to clear the sidewalk during a sit-in, but not before she issued a threat to Obama that he was alienating his liberal base and would suffer political consequences if he approved the pipeline.
“President Barack Obama does not need to compromise,” Hannah told the Financial Post. “He needs to just make the right decision. If he doesn’t make that right decision, I’m sure we will see huge effects in the next election.”
If Obama gives the project the green light, “environmental activists have threatened to withhold campaign donations and stop volunteering for Obama’s reelection effort,” reports the Huffington Post.
The campaign against the pipeline got an unexpected boost from a $50 million donation from left-wing (this suggests he’s a Democrat) New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the Sierra Club, which will use some of that money to recruit more star power by enlisting the services of Hollywood publicist
As the Sierra Club’s senior strategist for entertainment relations in Los Angeles, Sun will help create “meaningful opportunities” for celebrities to headline future pipeline protests.
“The group wants celebs to help pressure the Obama administration to reject granting a permit for a 1,700-mile oil pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico…” reports Deadline.com, a Hollywood news website.
By teaming up with the Sierra Club, Sun, who has represented such stars as George Clooney and Charlie Sheen, says she hopes her work will protect the environment by reducing her own personal carbon footprint.
Meanwhile, a number of labor organizations have launched the “Heartland, Not Hollywood” campaign urging the president to approve the project and have co-opted part of a popular Occupy Wall Street slogan.
“Hollywood’s elite 1 percent should stop flying to DC and speaking out against jobs that help the other 99 percent of America!” the unions say on their website JobsForThe99.com.
With 14 percent of construction workers unemployed, the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, and the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee, say the job market is the worst they’ve seen in 50 years.
“The Keystone XL pipeline would certainly be one major step towards addressing the American employment situation,” the unions say.
“Equally important, this project would go a long ways towards helping to alleviate America’s unstable reliance on the Middle East for sources of energy, as well as the escalating costs for petroleum-based products,” the unions say.
The pipeline is slated to go through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.
The State Department was supposed to make its recommendation to the president by the end of the year about whether the pipeline will have any significant impact on natural resources, and Obama pledged to announce his decision soon thereafter.
“The State Department’s in charge of analyzing this, because there’s a pipeline coming in from Canada,” Obama recently told KETV in Omaha, Nebraska. “They’ll be giving me a report over the next several months, and, you know, my general attitude is, what is best for the American people? What’s best for our economy both short term and long term? But also, what’s best for the health of the American people?”
However, as HUMAN EVENTS went to press, the State Department announced it will begin a whole new study to determine whether the pipeline should be rerouted around Kansas, a process that could delay approval of the project.
Add that to a decision last week by the State Department’s inspector general to investigate whether all federal laws and regulations have been followed, and the pipeline faces even more indefinite delays.
Meanwhile, TransCanada is eyeing the existing pipeline that runs from Alberta to the Canadian West Coast, where the crude oil can be loaded onto tankers and shipped to China.
“If there are even more significant delays, it will put this project in serious doubt,” Howard said.