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Obama’s Pipeline Punt May Not Be as Politically Astute as He Thinks

The Solyndra scandal has made the high cost of President Obama’s politicized approach to energy policy a major issue. But with the decision to delay a decision about completing the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada until after the 2012 election, the bankruptcy of this administration’s approach to this issue has been confirmed. As Alana wrote yesterday, Obama has effectively bowed to pressure from environmental groups in order to secure his base heading into his re-election effort. But in doing so, the president has handed the Republicans a club with which to beat him over the course of the next year.

By refusing to approve a project that would have increased the flow of oil into the country from a friendly nation, Obama has shown that getting closer to genuine energy independence through projects that are not pie-in-the-sky “green” boondoggles is not something that interests him. While, as a report in Politico noted, there seemed little political incentive for Obama to pull the trigger on Keystone XL one way or the other now, next summer may be a different story. If oil prices go up next year as the result of further turmoil in the Middle East or a conflict involving Iran, the president may regret a short-sighted political calculation that will decrease the country’s ability to avoid dependence on the Persian Gulf and other oil-rich hotspots.

The underlying problem here is that rather than seeing dependence on Middle East oil as a tangible problem to be solved by efforts to increase America’s supply from other regions, Obama seems to view it as merely an excuse to indulge green fantasies. The Solyndra scandal happened not just because one politically connected company was unsound, but also because this administration is predisposed to invest taxpayer dollars in any entity that can pose as a boost for the environment. While the president claims he wants a “balanced approach” to energy that will combine increased oil production with alternatives to fossil fuels, in practice that has turned out to mean something very different.

This debacle also illustrates another characteristic of the administration: weakness in the face of pressure. All it took was a couple of demonstrations by environmental extremists to cause Obama to fold on his commitment to increased oil production via cooperation with a reliable ally such as Canada.

Though the political motivations of this decision are inarguable, it may not escape the attention of independent voters next year that this is a president who can be pushed around by both Islamist tyrannies like Iran and the environmentalist lobby. Having determined to kick the can down the road on both energy independence and the threat of a nuclear Iran, it is difficult to make the case that Obama is capable or even interested in the decisive leadership that Americans need.