It has been quite amusing to read over some comments posted recently that tried to portray Barack Obama as being opposed to building the Keystone Pipeline when the reality is that the president isn’t opposed to the project at all, he’s just opposed to being railroaded into a hasty decision by Republican political maneuvering. Let’s take a look at what Obama actually said: “This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people…I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.” Obama Rejects Keystone Pipeline From Canada to Texas”; http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-01-18/obama-rejects-keystone-pipeline/52655762/1
Okay so where is the evidence in the words of the president that he’s fundamentally opposed to the Keystone Project? There isn’t any, as is obvious in his comments. Furthermore TransCanada’s CEO, Russ Girling has made public his decision to reapply for a permit to build the pipeline and asked that the process be expedited so as to enable a 2014 construction start. Did Barack Obama take issue with Mr. Girling’s new request, emphatically no, thus the very argument that Obama is fundamentally opposed to Keystone is rendered moot based on this fact alone. Instead what we’ve seen here is yet another crass attempt to distort the facts to fit the ongoing ideological attack of trying to portray Barack Obama as indifferent to job creation along with his being anti-business. A further look into what the article above states reinforces this: “Obama said House Republicans forced his decision by including a provision in last month’s legislation for a short-term extension to the payroll tax cut that required him to either issue a permit to allow the 1,700-mile pipeline to be built or explain why it was not in the national interest by Feb. 21. Obama said he rejected the permit application now based on the State Department’s recommendation, which concluded there wasn’t enough time to vet alternate pipeline routes…The State Department announced in November that it would explore a new route for the pipeline and pushed a final decision on the controversial project past the 2012 election.” Thus it is more than apparent that Republicans aren’t really interested in creating jobs through Keystone either and if they were they would have pushed for some sort of expedited environmental approval process rather than having insisted on an arbitrary date so soon in coming which they knew wouldn’t allow for the legally required environmental impact studies. Moreover, Republicans and their allies are inflating the number of jobs that would be created: “Business leaders and Republicans say approving the project now would create as many as 20,000 jobs for an ailing U.S. economy and lessen dependence on foreign oil.” However according to Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post who has followed this story closely and got her information directly from Mr. Girling of TransCanada, she said of Keystone “we’re talking more in the range of 6,500 construction jobs for both the first and second year of the project. And they’ve already spent some money that would cut into the supply chain jobs. When you’re talking about those big numbers, that includes everything, kind of indirect jobs, including who’s going to be serving these construction workers’ dinners, to other things…” “Could Keystone Pipeline Plan Be Revived After Obama’s Rejection?”; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june12/pipeline_01-18.html
What’s clear to this writer is that Capitol Hill Republicans were trying to manufacture some sort of political victory from their defeat on last month’s legislation for a short-term extension to the payroll tax cut by forcing Obama into making a decision on Keystone that they knew would mean a rejection of the pipeline. They had hoped in turn to use this decision as a political ploy but will this maneuver ultimately come back to hurt the G.O.P.? If you look further into the permitting process and the environmental due diligence involved in this project it reveals to what extent the congressional Republicans are playing politics. Commenting on the issue of redirecting the pipeline, Juliet Eilperin said: “Their argument [ The Obama Administration] is that they had been looking at an alternative route through Nebraska which has an environmentally sensitive habitat in a place called the Sandhills region. And they had asked basically TransCanada to work with Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality and look for a new way to do this, and had predicted that this would delay a final decision on this pipeline permit until early 2013. When the Republicans forced a decision by a deadline that was actually Feb. 21, the administration said, there’s no way we can do it. We’re not even going to go through the pretense of analyzing it, and we are rejecting this.” Moreover, there has been cause for concern in both parties at the state level over the original Keystone route: “Elected officials from both parties in Nebraska had expressed concerns a leak in the pipeline could endanger the [Ogallala] aquifer that provides much of Nebraska’s water supply.” Why even Nebraska’s Republican governor, Dave Heineman originally opposed Keystone having the same environmental concerns voiced by the president and others. With the aforementioned understood what is the real story of Keystone – the Obama administration not caring about jobs or Beltway Republican’s being more interested in playing the politics of obstruction than anything else? I think based on Obama’s comments and concerns at the state level among Nebraska’s Republican lawmakers and the governor the answer can only be the latter. Seems pretty open and shut to me.