President Barack Obama is intervening in a Senate fight over the Keystone XL oil pipeline and personally lobbying Democrats to reject an amendment calling for its construction, according to several sources familiar with the talks.
The White House lobbying effort, including phone calls from the president to Democrats, signals that the vote could be close when it heads to the floor Thursday. The president is trying to defeat an amendment that would give election-year fodder to his Republican critics who have accused him of blocking a job-creating energy project at a time of high gas prices.
The fact that Obama is personally inserting himself into this fight shows how worried the White House is. If the bill passes, Republicans will have a huge bludgeon to hit Obama with during the campaign. And if it fails, Republicans will still be able to blame Obama for blocking a pipeline that would create thousands of jobs and reduce U.S. dependency on OPEC. No wonder his campaign is panicking now that the national conversation is turning to rising gas prices.
But the longer Obama holds up Keystone XL construction, the more likely it becomes that Canada will take its oil exports elsewhere. Alberta Premier Alison Redford said as much yesterday during a meeting with oil industry insiders in Washington, according to reports:
Meeting later Wednesday with Canadian diplomats and industry representatives, Redford again stressed Alberta’s plans to pursue exports to Asia rather than rely on the uncertainty in the U.S. market.
“We certainly want the United States to be our natural customers. But we are an exporting nation,” she said at a luncheon hosted by the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
“We have resources that we must export and we will find ways to export those resources.”
Obama’s position on the Keystone XL issue has become so muddled that he’s ended up alienating all sides of the debate simultaneously. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, because that’s the way he operates on most issues involving a foreign ally.