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March 6 2013

Keystone Pipeline: It's Baaack!

Charlotte Hays

The Keystone XL pipeline, which was shoved to the back burner during the presidential election, is back in President Obama’s lap.

A State Department environmental impact study, not the first, came out Friday and again cleared the pipeline. Meanwhile, public support for the pipeline is at 70 percent. But the president's chic environmentalist supporters, being largely impervious to science, aren’t mollified.

President Obama, faced with a choice between offending environmentalists and labor unions, which support the pipeline, hasn’t signaled which way he is leaning. This is alarming because it means that the U.S. really could end up rejecting the pipeline. The pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada, would reduce our dependence on hostile nations and create jobs for Americans.

The Weekly Standard picked up on an alarming thesis put forward by one Moe Lane, who suggests that the president hasn’t given a hint of which way he is leaning because he doesn’t know what to do:

Obama has yet to make a decision on the Keystone Pipeline, and he’s more or less going to seriously anger a key block of supporters either way. … The result?  Barack Obama is… dithering; which pleases nobody. …

What both sides don’t quite realize is that the problem that the administration is facing a structural problem, not an ideological one.  It’s not that the White House doesn’t want to resolve the issue; it just doesn’t know how.

Using the jargon of “gaming geeks,” Lane explains why, in Lane's view, the president doesn't know what to do: President Obama knows how to win elections but is not equipped with the skills that permit him to govern. Not going to quote Lane's post, but I guarantee you'll find it fascinating and not at all comforting. I haven't been able to get it off my mind. But, even if Lane is onto something, this is not the whole truth.

I believe that to understand the president's reluctance to okay Keystone, you have to understand something very fundamental about Barack Obama: he is a celebrity.

The president clearly likes being a celebrity and he clearly values his friendships with other celebrities.

And, if there is anything rich, Hollywood celebrities can't stand, it's that blanekety- blank Keystone pipeline.

The Keystone XL pipeline might create thousands of jobs for the hoi polloi, but to celebs it will still be unseemly. Never mind that so many of their concerns are ill founded or debunke by science. They remain committed to stopping the pipeline, and being thusly committed is just so cool. You may be wrong, but you get to be wrong with Yoko, Matt and a whole bunch of Kennedies! What's not to like?

A story on Fox notes:

Much of the anti-fracking activism is centered in New York City, where concerts, movies and plays use huge amounts of energy, gourmet chefs including Batali cook with gas, and most people — the glitterati included — heat with gas.

There's no doubt that critics of hydraulic fracturing — a practice colloquially known as fracking that involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into underground rock to free vast reserves of gas — have some legitimate concerns. There have been documented cases of leaking gas ruining nearby well water, of air pollution and of problems from the waste the drilling generates. Experts say those are important parts of the story — but far from the whole story.

"With proper regulation and enforcement, gas provides a very substantial health benefit in reducing air pollution," compared with coal-fired power plants, said Daniel Schrag, director of Harvard University's Center for the Environment.

That is a theme not adequately covered in the debate over fracking, agreed Michael Greenstone, an environmental economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former top adviser to the Obama administration. Greenstone is studying the local health effects of fracking, but he said it's not scientifically accurate to ignore "the tremendous health gains" from the coal-to-gas shift.

I worry that POTUS may not have what it takes to buck the cool kids, even if they haven't done their science projects very well.

We’ll know soon.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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