President Obama got cover for his refusal to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline during the 2012 election by insisting that the already much-studied project needed yet another study by the State Department.
Well, on Friday the State Department issued its report. Now there is no reason for the president not to green light a project that has enormous support on both sides of the aisle and is opposed only by the more hardcore elements of the environmental movement. The Washington Post sums up the findings. Here are some takeaways:
Bottom line: The report concludes that blocking or approving the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline would not have a "significant" impact on overall greenhouse-gas emissions and future tar-sands expansion. That's because, it argues, most of Alberta's oil will likely find a way to get to the market anyway — if not by pipeline, then by rail.
More specifically: The 830,000 barrels of oil that the pipeline would transport each day would add an extra 1.3 million to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. That's a whole lot of carbon — it's like putting an extra 250,000 to 5.5 million cars on the road. But the key question is how much of that oil would get burned anyway, even if the pipeline is blocked. And the State Department believes most of it will get produced regardless.
None of these findings are surprising. Indeed, it should be clear that the only reason for the study was to provide the president a fig leaf. The New York Post editorializes:
In short, the only one who needed this report was the president — because it was his excuse for putting off a decision until after the 2012 elections to appease the green wing of his party, which opposes all fossil fuels. He did so even though Keystone is supported by another important Democratic constituency, the unions, whose members stand to gain jobs.
When President Obama was sworn in, he vowed to “restore science to its rightful place” — i.e., to make decisions based on evidence and the facts. In his State of the Union last Tuesday, he touted his “all-of-the-above energy strategy” that embraced all energy sources. Here’s his chance to do both.
The Keystone XL pipeline would be family friendly in that it would bring us oil from a friendly nation and create more American jobs. In an anemic economy, the Keystone pipeline could be a bright spot.
Whether the Keystone XL pipeline is built or not, the Washington Post notes, the oil will go on the market—likely by rail, which has more environmental impact. Despite the latest State Department study, the environmental absolutists have vowed to go in to high gear with protests. Moreover, the EPA is poised to object to the State Department study. Fox News reports that emails between environmental groups and the EPA indicated that the two groups are allied in an effort to kill the pipeline.
The Washington Times notes:
The environmental community praised the EPA’s move, which may be a signal that presidential approval of Keystone is no longer a safe bet.
Unless he finds another way to delay (and we should not rule out an inventive delaying tactic), President Obama is faced with the prospect of making a decision that requires courage. It is clear to everybody but the most radical environmentalists that the pipeline is a good idea. It is unclear that President Obama will go against his environmental base for the good of the country. In fact, it is unclear to this blogger that he will not attempt to rescue himself from a situation that requires him to be the decider by delay or some other tactic.