Commentary Magazine


Obama Punts Pipeline Decision to 2013

Environmental activists are claiming victory, but they shouldn’t crack out the champagne yet. Based on the timing and thin reasoning, President Obama clearly seems to have based this decision on election strategy as opposed to environmental interests. Now he can wink at the unions while telling the environmentalists that he hears their concerns, and keep both sides hanging on until after the presidential election.

That’s 20,000 jobs down the drain:

For months, the conventional wisdom had been that a presidential permit for Keystone XL was inevitable; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in October 2010 that she was “inclined” to approve it because it was better to get oil from Canada than from less-friendly nations. The State Department then released a final supplemental environmental assessment in August stating that TransCanada’s proposed route is the preferred option.

But the environmentalist protests led by activist Bill McKibben, as well as opposition in Republican-friendly Nebraska to the proposed route, seem to have led the administration to delay the decision.

The State Department already came to a decision on the issue, and opening up a re-review is simply a way to buy time. Politically, it will keep Obama’s base in line, and prevent more embarrassing “green” protests outside the White House. But it also opens the president up to attacks over his seriousness on job creation and his leadership ability. The pipeline extension has already been held in limbo for three years, which is more than enough time for the administration to make a decision. Speaker John Boehner took Obama to task on the delay in a statement this afternoon:

“More than 20,000 new American jobs have just been sacrificed in the name of political expediency. By punting on this project, the president has made clear that campaign politics are driving U.S. policy decisions – at the expense of American jobs. The current project has already been deemed environmentally sound, and calling for a new route is nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt to avoid upsetting the president’s political base before the election. It’s a failure of leadership.”

Obama’s decision is a signal that his campaign is more concerned about holding together his base at this point than with reaching out to independent voters. And the sharp contrast between the White House and Republicans on Keystone XL will undoubtedly be highlighted by the GOP candidates.

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