One of the big topics yesterday at the Real Clear Politics symposium on “U.S. Energy Policy: The Road Ahead,” co-sponsored with America’s Power, was the riddle of the Keystone XL pipeline: Why hasn’t President Obama given us a yea or nay on this project?
President Obama avoided a decision on this project, which would create American jobs and bring us energy from a friendly country, during the 2012 campaign. We expected that after the election, when the president didn’t have to risk alienating his environmentalist base or just about everybody else (Keystone has broad bipartisan support), we’d get a decision. Not so.
Senator Joe Manchin, the conservative Democrat from West Virginia and the keynoter, said that the president’s refusal to deal with Keystone “just doesn’t make any sense—none at all.”
Manchin asked, “Do you buy from your friends or your enemies? We have no better friend than Canada. That oil is going somewhere. Somebody is going to get it.” Although the Keystone pipeline has been cleared in numerous environmental reviews, the Environmental Protection Agency recently weighed in saying that State Department reviews were insufficient. “It’s all the president. It’s all the administration,” Manchin said, adding the EPA takes its “marching orders” from the administration.
In a way, though, President Obama’s stalling makes perfect sense: the president likely doesn’t want to come right out and nix a project that has enormous bipartisan support and would create jobs for Americans. On the other hand, the president is a man whose heart belongs to the left, and that includes the environmentalists, who are adamantly opposed to the Keystone project.
Several panelists said that appointment of John Podesta, who was key in mobilizing opposition to Keystone when he was at the Center for American Progress, as White House counselor means that the battle to get approval for the Keystone just got that much tougher. “Not to compare it to Pearl Harbor, but do you remember where you were when you heard that John Podesta was going back to the White House?” moderator Carl Cannon, Real Clear Politics’ Washington bureau chief, joked. (Podesta also served as Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton.)
Manchin said, however, that if the administration rejects the Keystone XL Pipeline, it will become a "hot issue" that could harm Democrats in the midterm elections.
But how about if President Obama just sits on it for the next three years?
Not exactly a profile in courage. If the president tries to run out the clock on making a hard call, that, too, should be a very hot issue for his party this year.