And while TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project is not dead and could be addressed again after the November elections, Obama’s decision certainly went a long way toward bolstering his opposition.
People are out of work and this project might have put thousands of Americans to work almost immediately. Republicans latched onto the pipeline as a symbol of job creation and an opportunity to wean ourselves from Mideast oil. And with the Iranians only starting to back off of a threat to block the Strait of Hormuz and cut off a sixth of the world’s oil supply, such a project would have offered a glimmer of hope of becoming less reliant on Mideast oil in our continuing gas-driven society.
Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. wanted to carry tar sands oil from western Canada via a 1,700-mile pipeline that would cross six U.S. states to Texas refineries. The jobs this project would create in the immediate future would be a big boost for a population with an 8.5 percent unemployment rate, but the potential long-term benefits are even greater.
Face it, Americans are still heavily dependent upon oil and that, in some people’s minds, puts us at continued risk when dealing with unstable but oil-rich nations.
Moreover, Obama’s decision has reportedly caused tension with friendly neighbors to the north. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made public statements that Canada will now seek to “diversify” its portfolio, which some take to mean selling to China. It’s hard to believe that Obama would want to deliver Canada into the hands of the Chinese, over American profits and jobs. But his logic on this one is questionable, at best.
The administration already said no, for now, until government can review an alternative route that avoids environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska, a route not yet proposed. The president had to make some decision, at least in the interim, by Feb. 21 at the latest as part of an unrelated tax deal he made with Republicans.
He and his Democratic colleagues are leaning on the deadline they say prevented the State Department from gathering the necessary information to approve the project and “protect the American people,” as Obama said. Opponents have voiced concerns that the pipeline would leak and contaminate the ground water supply. They also voiced concerns about the pipeline’s effect on wildlife.
Nebraska Sand Hills, a 20,000-square-mile expanse of ground water and grassland which, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also supports ranching and wildlife, is of particular concern.
Back in October, TransCanada said the pipeline could not be rerouted, but in addition to its existing commitments to clean up a spill, it would be willing to provide a $100 million performance bond payable to Nebraska if the company fails to clean up a spill in the Sand Hills.
Obama and his administration, in what some are calling a political decision to appease a vocal environmental group, intend to take their time on this, despite the looming concerns of employment and economic growth. It’s a miscalculation.