Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Will Obama punt on the Keystone pipeline?

When faced with a wedge issue that divides Obama's union and environmentalist supporters, apparently the Obama administration is considering just punting.
The Obama administration is considering a move that could delay a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline by requiring sponsors to reduce the project's environmental risks before it can be approved, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.

The step might put off a decision until after the 2012 election and be a way for the White House to at least temporarily avoid antagonizing either the unions that support the pipeline or the environmental activists who oppose it as President Obama gears up for his campaign.
Now that is real leadership!

As the Examiner points out, President Obama laments that we have lost our ambition, our -- our imagination, and -- and -- our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge." Oh please. As the Examiner reminds us, the Golden Gate Bridge was built by private enterprise despite government opposition. But today, the climate for massive construction projects is much different.
Obama is almost certainly correct in doubting that grand projects like the Golden Gate Bridge could be done today, but not for the reasons he would want to acknowledge. For proof, we need look no further than the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that TransCanada first proposed in 2008. The company wants to spend $7 billion in private capital to build the pipeline. It would transport crude oil produced in Canada's Alberta tar sands region to refineries in Texas. Not only would U.S. dependence on OPEC nations for oil be significantly reduced, building the pipeline would also, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute, create as many as 435,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2035.

But incessant delays since 2008 caused by the cumbersome permitting process and environmental impact assessments have put the project in jeopardy. Even if federal officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar, and, finally, President Obama, ever get around to approving the project, TransCanada will then face additional years of costly litigation by extraordinarily well-funded Big Green environmental groups. As The Examiner's Conn Carroll points out on page 27, such groups are empowered by the National Environment Protection Act (NEPA) to stop any project so long as they can find an un-dotted "i" or improperly crossed "t" in an Environmental Impact Statement and a sympathetic federal judge to issue an injunction.
If Obama allows the decision to be delayed until after the election on the pipeline, he will be demonstrating that, when it comes to jobs versus environmentalist demands, he will ignore the jobs in favor of appeasing his environmentalist supporters.