A vitally-needed oil pipeline project, demanded by the vast majority of Americans, has been stymied for years, while the U.S. economy sputters along. The people want action… but a small group of highly influential environmentalists has made blocking the pipeline into a religious crusade, upon which much of their movement’s prestige has been staked. Every logical reason to delay the project has long since been exhausted. Democrats fearful of the 2014 elections panic at the thought of having to choose between their constituents’ desires and partisan loyalty to the President. What’s Barack Obama to do?
Why, punt until after the midterm elections, of course. From the Associated Press:
The State Department is giving federal agencies more time to review the Keystone XL pipeline before deciding whether to issue a permit.
That could push a decision about the controversial oil pipeline until after the midterm elections in November.
The State Department is citing a recent decision by a Nebraska judge that overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline’s path through the state. The State Department says that created uncertainty and ongoing litigation.
The government is not saying how much longer the review will take. But it says the process isn’t starting over.
The pipeline has become a politically fraught issue. Republicans criticize President Barack Obama for taking too long to decide. The State Department has jurisdiction because the pipeline would cross the border between the U.S. and Canada.
So far, this threading-the-needle strategy isn’t going over terribly well. Fox News reports on criticism swiftly hitting the Administration from both sides of the aisle:
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that this well over five year long process is continuing for an undetermined amount of time,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.H., said in a statement.
Republican Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry called the decision “shameful,” particularly since it means another spring construction season will come and go without the project.
[…] Keystone supporters in Congress were furious with the decision. Just days earlier, 11 Democratic senators had written to President Obama urging him to make a final decision by the end of May, complaining that the process “has been exhaustive in its time, breadth and scope.”
With the extension, the administration effectively has turned down that request. One of the letter’s signatories, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said the decision amounts to an “indefinite delay” of the project.
“This decision is irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable,” she said. “By making it clear that they will not move the process forward until there is a resolution in a lawsuit in Nebraska, the administration is sending a signal that the small minority who oppose the pipeline can tie up the process in court forever. There are 42,000 jobs, $20 billion in economic activity and North America’s energy security at stake.”
Reuters takes a stab at predicting the economic and international consequences:
The move is likely to infuriate Canadian politicians who have grown increasingly irate over delays. It may also upset some in Obama’s own party. Just a week ago, 11 Democratic senators, many facing tough November races, urged him to make to make a decision by May 31.
The move will also have sweeping consequences across Canada’s oil industry, threatening to prolong the deep discounts on cash crude prices for producers such as Suncor Energy Inc and Cenovus Energy Inc, while aiding oil-by-rail developers like Gibson Energy and Canexus Corp that are racing to fill a gap left by a lack of export pipeline capacity.
By linking Canadian fields to refiners in the Gulf Coast, the 1,200-mile (1,900-km) Keystone XL pipeline would be a boon to an energy patch where oil sands are abundant but that produce more carbon pollution than many other forms of crude.
Keystone opponents say that burning fossil fuels to wrench oil sands crude from the ground will worsen climate change, and that the $5.4 billion pipeline, which could carry up to 830,000 barrels a day, would only spur more production.
The Church of Global Warming is having a rough time with actual data these days, but its political influence remains powerful enough to force us to pay another few billion in mandatory tithe. Perhaps this will be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back, and exhausts the American electorate’s patience with climate change mythology. They really will push you back into pre-industrial squalor if you let them, folks.
There’s one name to remember in all this: Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democrat donor who really is what Dems love to rail against the Koch Brothers for being. Steyer will not permit the Keystone pipeline to be built; the Democrat Party will do whatever he demands, to get his campaign contributions. Enough wiggle room is permitted to let a few endangered incumbents squeak in protest, or maybe even vote for a non-binding resolution, but it’s just for show.
In fact, delaying the pipeline in an administrative quagmire gives red-state Democrat candidates a golden opportunity to “distance” themselves from the unpopular Administration in the most symbolic, insubstantial manner imaginable, so today’s delaying action is not without its political utility for Obama. There’s almost nothing else that could have happened, given the political realities.
Update: Reaction from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “It is crystal clear that the Obama administration is simply not serious about American energy and American jobs. I guess he wasn’t serious about having a pen and a phone, either. At a time of high unemployment in the Obama economy, it’s a shame that the administration has delayed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline for years. Here’s the single greatest shovel-ready project in America – one that could create thousands of jobs right away – but the President simply isn’t interested. Apparently radical activists carry more weight than Americans desperate to get back on the job. More jobs left behind in the Obama economy.”
I’m sure McConnell’s esteemed colleague, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, will be along any minute with a window-rattling tirade from the Senate floor about the evils of anti-American billionaires using wads of filthy campaign money to buy political influence for the furtherance of their own narrow interests. You’re really gonna get it now, Tom Steyer!
Reaction from House Speaker John Boehner: “This delay is shameful. With tens of thousands of American jobs on the line and our allies in Eastern Europe looking for energy leadership from America, it’s clear there is little this administration isn’t willing to sacrifice for politics. For no reason other than the president’s refusal to stand up to the extreme left, good-paying jobs and North American energy remain out of reach. This job-creating project has cleared every environmental hurdle and overwhelmingly passed the test of public opinion, yet it’s been blocked for more than 2,000 days. And if we’ve learned anything from the events in Ukraine, it’s that energy security sends signals across borders, and nations in the region hoping for greater American energy exports will no doubt take notice of this egregious decision. There are no credible reasons to block this pipeline even one day more, and the House will continue to press the administration to move forward so we can put Americans back to work and strengthen our energy security.”