WASHINGTON — In the days leading up to President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline, 14 oil tanker railroad cars derailed in West Virginia and exploded in a fiery environmental disaster.
It was reported that residents in the area compared the thunderous fireball and poisonous smoke that blackened the sky to “a scene from the apocalypse” — describing it as “something biblical, or wrath-of-God type stuff.”
This wasn’t a rare, isolated accident. In the last several years it’s become all too common across our country, as the oil industry has struggled to find ways to transport its petroleum to markets. Last week’s explosion came a few days after a similar accident that followed a record-setting year of repeated rail tanker disasters.
At last count, there were more than 141 rail tanker accidents in 2014 alone, close to a sixfold increase in the average number of spills between 1975 and 2012.
Obama was briefed on all of this and presumably knew that the dangers of transporting highly flammable oil by rail far outweighed the possibility of such accidents happening in the XL pipeline.
Lives and property are at risk here. In July 2013, a rail tanker derailment in Quebec killed 47 people and 2,000 residents had to be evacuated from the area. This is what is at stake in the Obama administration’s rigid opposition to completing the pipeline.
But this is not about protecting the environment, as he has piously claimed in the past. It’s all about politics and paying off one of the Democratic Party’s richest and most powerful campaign supporters: the environmental lobby.
It helped to bankroll Obama’s two presidential elections and will play a huge role in Hillary Clinton’s expected bid for the White House.
Obama deceitfully insists he still has an open mind on the issue, but says he wants to give the State Department review process more time to consider all the ramifications of the project. What a load of malarkey.
The administration is now in its sixth year of this review process. But when does “review” become foot-dragging, obfuscation and political game-playing?
“Six years of review and five positive environmental assessments from the State Department are enough,” said Jack Gerard, president and chief executive officer of the American Petroleum Institute (API).
“Instead of standing with 72 percent of Americans, including a majority of Democrats, who support the pipeline, this decision continues us down the path of indecision and delay,” he said Tuesday.
“Voters spoke loud and clear last fall, saying they wanted Washington to work together. Unfortunately, the veto today demonstrates some are not listening,” he said.
The State Department has already said that completion of the pipeline from Canada to Gulf Coast ports could put $2 billion into workers’ wallets and create up to 42,000 jobs until its completion, a figure that has been widely debated.
Obama has ridiculed the number of jobs it will produce as “maybe 2,000,” but that’s ridiculous and he knows it.
This project will pump about $3.3 billion in construction, materials and other expenditures into the economy, plus about $200 million for construction camps.
That kind of spending would, of course, filter throughout local and state economies and create new jobs or support existing jobs. Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler estimates that 16,000 jobs is a more likely figure, including construction, that “would stem from direct spending.”
Liberal Democrats such as Sen. Charles Schumer of New York ridicule the kind of jobs the pipeline would produce, saying that almost all of them would be “temporary.”
I didn’t hear Schumer say that the “shovel-ready” jobs in Obama’s $800 billion economic stimulus plan were only temporary, which of course is true of all construction work. When the roads and bridge projects were completed, the jobs ended and the unemployment rate hardly budged.
And what specifically are Obama’s objections to this project on environmental grounds? The government’s own review said the pipeline would “have an edge of safety over any other” method of transport.
But when the decision came down to a choice between a much safer and less expensive mode of transporting oil to refineries, and the more dangerous rail tankers, Obama chose the status quo.
Earlier in his first term, when it came down to a choice between strengthening our economy and making the U.S. more energy independent, or helping one of our economic competitors, Obama chose the latter.
No sooner did Obama reject Canada’s oil pipeline permit request than Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper — whose country has been America’s biggest source of oil — was on a plane to China to sign new oil contracts with Beijing.
“The very fact that a ‘no’ could even be said underscores to our country that we must diversify our energy markets,” Harper said in an interview with the Canadian Wilson Centre think tank. “We cannot be, as a country, in a situation where our one and, in many cases, only energy partner could say no to our energy products. We just can’t be in that position.”
But Obama, who has proved he is incapable of thinking strategically in behalf of our country’s interests, thinks only of the politics of each issue, not the consequences of his actions or inactions.
His fateful decision against the oil pipeline has hurt our economy, thwarted the creation of thousands of jobs at a time when we need them most, and turned his back on one of our closest allies.
The cross-country pipeline offers “a safe, practical way to bring not just more Canadian oil to U.S. refineries, but also domestic production from our upper plains states,” API officials said this week.
Many energy experts and economists have commented on the stupidity of Obama’s pipeline decision. But economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson perhaps put it best when he said, “President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is an act of national insanity.”
No one has said it better than that.