Americans who were hoping Barack Obama would finally make up his mind about the Keystone XL Pipeline after the midterm elections were disappointed on Thursday, when the president refused to take a position.
“There’s an independent process that’s moving forward,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “I’m going to let that process play out.”
Except the process has already “played out” — twice. The only reason the pipeline isn’t being built is the president’s refusal to let it happen.
The $7 billion Keystone XL Pipeline would connect the oilfields of Alberta, Canada to refineries and ports on the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and carry the equivalent of more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day.
American labor unions support it, because the pipeline would create construction jobs.
Environmentalists — another key constituency of Obama’s Democratic Party — argue it will increase Canadian oil sand production, which is more polluting than conventional oil extraction, even though two State Department studies and numerous industry reports have shown Keystone would have a negligible environmental impact.
The first State Department study was released in August 2011 and found no good reason for not building the pipeline.
The second, undertaken at Obama’s behest, came out in March of last year and reiterated the original study’s conclusions. It said “approval or denial of the proposed project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area.” It warned that if Keystone wasn’t built, the Canadians would find other ways to get their oil to market.
In June, they did.
Canada lobbied hard for Keystone XL, but, exasperated by the Obama Administration’s dithering, it approved the construction of the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which will transport the equivalent of 525,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Pacific coast — from where it can be exported to China.
America is losing out on an economic opportunity, not because some “independent process” is taking time, but because it has elected a president who won’t take the advice of his own experts.