Aug. 12, 2014

The Political Play Behind the Keystone Delay

With Obama, everything is politics, including the Keystone pipeline and Atlantic drilling.

The Keystone XL pipeline is a $5.3 billion project meant to carry Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The southern leg, from Nebraska to the Texas coast, is already built; the remaining section awaiting approval from the Obama administration would stretch from Steele City, Nebraska, to Hardisty, Alberta. The primary goal is energy provision and production, but other benefits include jobs and cleaner, safer transport for oil. Yet environmentalists have made it their mission to thwart the pipeline, and the Obama administration has stalled for years on approving it.

The latest wrench in the works is a new study published in Nature Climate Change claiming that building the pipeline would create at least four times the State Department’s estimate of greenhouse gases. According to the Los Angeles Times, “In its environmental impact statement issued in February, the State Department estimated that the Keystone XL pipeline, which would ultimately carry 830,000 barrels of oil daily, could increase emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 1.3 million to 27.4 million metric tons annually.” The new Nature Climate Change study, on the other hand, estimates annual emissions could exceed 100 million metric tons.

To reach their conclusion, study authors Peter Erickson and Michael Lazarus, both scientists at Seattle’s Stockholm Environment Institute, calculate the pipeline would mean cheaper oil and gas, leading to higher consumption and, therefore, more greenhouse gases. They write, “We find that for every barrel of increased production, global oil consumption would increase 0.6 barrels owing to the incremental decrease in global oil prices.” The State Department’s own study, on the other hand, estimated that oil consumption would not increase because alternative means already exist for transporting the oil to refineries.

In June 2013, Barack Obama said Keystone would win his approval only if “it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” In February, the State Department found just that, though in a Good Friday news dump in April, the administration said it was delaying its decision again. Perhaps Obama’s comments in June last year were a signal to his environmental allies to come up with their own alarm bells, and the Easter delay was a bid to give them more time.

In related oil news, the administration recently teased the idea of oil and natural gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean, perhaps even moving toward opening the Atlantic to drilling. The Hill reports, “In June, the administration gave its strongest signal to date that the Atlantic would likely be included in the Interior Department’s five-year lease plan for 2017-2022, by opening it up to new oil and gas exploration for the first time in 30 years.” That would be a huge policy shift.

Naturally, ecofascist groups jumped to action. The Hill notes, “Environmentalists, and lawmakers who oppose opening new areas to development are already pushing back, flooding the Interior Department will comments arguing against new drilling.” On the other side, the governors of Virginia and both Carolinas support Atlantic drilling for the economic benefits to their states.

Obama likes to have it both ways with energy by obstructing fossil fuel exploration, drilling and production at every turn while boasting of the increased oil production during his tenure. As we have noted on numerous occasions, however, the current oil boom is thanks entirely to increased production on private and state lands. Federal lands (and waters) have remained almost entirely off limits. And even if Obama did approve drilling in the Atlantic, it wouldn’t begin until after he leaves office.

In the case of the Atlantic, Obama’s play may be the same as with Keystone – signal that he’s about to approve something so as to motivate his ecofascist constituents to plead their case, allowing him to hear their concerns and respond by stalling, all right before November’s election. For this president, everything is politics, so whatever his angle, it’s not with an eye on the nation’s best interests regarding critical energy needs.

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