Friday, November 6, 2015

Let the screaming begin: Obama nixes Keystone XL pipeline

Yesterday (Friday, Nov 7) President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline. Here are reports from the New York Times and Steve Benen at MSNBC/Rachel Maddow Show. First, from the Times:

President Obama announced on Friday that he had rejected the request from a Canadian company to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, ending a seven-year review that had become a symbol of the debate over his climate policies.

Mr. Obama’s denial of the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline, which would have carried 800,000 barrels a day of carbon-heavy petroleum from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast, comes as he seeks to build an ambitious legacy on climate change.

"President Obama is the first world leader to reject a project because of its effect on the climate,’’ said Bill McKibben, founder of the activist group 350.org, which led the campaign against the pipeline. "That gives him new stature as an environmental leader, and it eloquently confirms the five years and millions of hours of work that people of every kind put into this fight.’’

Republicans and the oil industry had demanded that the president approve the pipeline, which they said would create jobs and stimulate economic growth. Many Democrats, particularly those in oil-producing states such as North Dakota, also supported the project. In February, congressional Democrats joined with Republicans in sending Mr. Obama a bill to speed approval of the project, but the president vetoed the measure.

However, claims about job creation and economic growth are inflated, the Times acknowledged.

But numerous State Department reviews concluded that construction of the pipeline would have little impact on whether that type of oil was burned, because it was already being extracted and moving to market via rail and existing pipelines. In citing his reason for the decision, Mr. Obama noted the State Department findings that construction of the pipeline would not have created a significant number of new jobs, lowered oil or gasoline prices or significantly reduced American dependence on foreign oil.

Steve Benen's report is more pointed on the Republicans' backing of the pipeline.

... at issue is a proposal to build a pipeline to transport oil, extracted from tar sands, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Critics have said the tar-sands process is environmentally hazardous, which is true. They’ve said the project would have no real impact on already low gas prices, which is also true. And they’ve said Keystone would be largely meaningless to the U.S. unemployment rate, which is already approaching an eight-year low, and which, once again, is completely true.

And on the other side of the aisle, Republicans have an equally straightforward rejoinder: they really, really, really like this project. Why? Because they really, really, really do.

Let’s again acknowledge what too often goes unsaid: for Republicans, the Keystone XL pipeline stopped being about the Keystone XL pipeline quite a while ago. It’s just one oil project – one that would have no discernible positive effect on anything, except maybe the economy in western Canada (not that I have anything against western Canada’s economy).

Rather, Keystone has become a totem of sorts. Its actual value has been rendered meaningless, replaced with post-policy symbolic value that overrides every other consideration. Indeed, the more Democrats and environmentalists told Republicans this is a bad idea, the more Republicans convinced themselves this was The Most Important Project In The World, probably because it was ideologically satisfying.

It’s a safe bet the GOP leaders on Capitol Hill and the Republican presidential candidates will scream bloody murder this afternoon, insisting the Obama White House is … I don’t know … indifferent to job creation or something.

But let’s not forget that an independent State Department study found that the project would create about 35 permanent, full-time American jobs – roughly what we’d see from "opening a new Denny’s franchise." There would be far more temporary jobs associated with Keystone, but they’d come and go fairly quickly.

There was no real, coherent reason to embrace the project. The president obviously made the right call.

Now if only Obama would nix the Rosemont mine.

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