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Keystone XL Pipeline – Will President Obama Violate His Own Inaugural Promises?

keystone xl pipeline

On January 21st, our nation listened as President Obama made his second inaugural speech. Thousands were in attendance as he made references to a variety of topics including immigration reform, gun violence, equal pay for women, and of course, climate change.

President Obama emphasized the importance of our country’s actions in order to reduce climate change.  “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama firmly declared to the nation during his inaugural speech.  “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim promise.  This is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks.”

But what about the Keystone XL pipeline? Where does that fit in the plan? Earlier this week, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman officially approved the new route for the infamous pipeline, which will transport synthetic crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Now, Obama is faced with an epic decision. Will he approve this project and work toward his goal of new job creation and U.S. energy independence? Or will he reject the pipeline in support of his promise to protect our environment and prevent any further climate change?

To make Obama’s decision even harder, 53 senators are now pushing him to approve. One day after Heineman expressed his support for the $7 billion project, a congressional letter was written directly to the president himself.  “The factors supporting the national interest determination in 2009 are just as relevant today,” the senators stated in the letter.  “Because (Keystone XL) has gone through the most exhaustive environmental scrutiny of any pipeline in the history of this country and you already determined that oil from Canada is in the national interest, there is no reason to deny or further delay this long-studied project.”

The senators also took a second approach and stated that the Keystone XL pipeline will create “thousands of good-paying union jobs and millions of dollars in economic development for our country as a whole, none of which cost any taxpayer money.”

But pressure is coming from the opposite direction as well.  Environmentalists are claiming that this is Obama’s greatest opportunity to keep his inaugural promise to fight climate change.  May Boeve, executive director of the group, shared her attitude toward the situation, “This decision is now firmly on President Obama’s desk.  Approving the Keystone XL would make a mockery of the commitment he made at the inauguration to take action on climate change.”

Fear of damage to nearby wetlands, groundwater, plants and animals is the major reason why President Obama is so hesitant to approve.  If he does show his support, what will happen to “our forests and waterways?”  Or our “croplands and snowcapped peaks?”  But then again, if he does not approve, what will become of our nation’s unemployment rate and reliance on foreign energy sources?  Both defenders and opponents to the pipeline are closely watching, anticipating President Obama’s final decision on this drawn-out subject.  Many experts, including a former Clinton administration official, are in fact, predicting that the pipeline will receive presidential approval.  What do you think the final verdict will be?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image: Natural Gas Pipeline via Shutterstock

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Randy Voges's picture
Randy Voges on Jan 27, 2013

As Politico notes, Obama has painted himself into a corner by claiming to support an 'all-of-the-above' energy policy and even going so far as to cheer on the southern leg of the pipeline.  If he nixes it, he looks disingenuous because he avoided the topic during his reelection campaign.  He also knows the Republicans will come after him hard, especially when oil prices rise as usual prior to the summer driving season (in this case everybody will be swooning over the $100/barrel level).  My guess is that he'll approve it reluctantly and then try to compensate by encouraging more EPA regulations, particularly on existing power plants.


Sarah Battaglia's picture
Sarah Battaglia on Jan 28, 2013

I agree with you, Randy.  Since the southern part of the pipeline is currently in the process of being built, many environmentalists are feeling nervous for his final verdict.  Why would Obama disapprove when half of it is already in place?  What will happen to the existing part of the pipeline?  Will it just be removed?  That seems like a complete waste of valuable time and resources.  Or will it still be used for another project? 

Thanks for your comment.

Paul Ebert's picture
Paul Ebert on Jan 28, 2013

You may well be correct Randy, but then again, he may not have much to lose since he won't be running for office again.  It may be that what motivates him is a sense of what sort of legacy he will be leaving.  Time will tell.

Bill Woods's picture
Bill Woods on Jan 28, 2013

With or without the northern part, the southern pipeline will be used to relieve the current lack of capacity south from Oklahoma to the refineries on the Gulf coast.

Randy Voges's picture
Randy Voges on Jan 29, 2013


Along with his legacy, it seems obvious that he really doesn't want to disappoint the greens that have supported him so strongly and for whom the pipeline carries so much symbolism.  On the other hand, even though he wont be running for office, there will be plenty of Democrats on the ballot in the midterms that won't want to give the Republicans ammunition.  It will be very interesting to watch.

Paul Ebert's picture
Paul Ebert on Jan 29, 2013

Yes, it will.

Guy Ventner's picture
Guy Ventner on Jan 31, 2013

How do you feel about the 10's of thousands of acres that are now industrilized by multi hundred foot high Industrial Wind Turbine decimating raptor populations? Or the acres and acres of heat sink that are also called solar panels sucking up water and drastically raising the local eco-sytems tempuratures...oh and lets not forget those solar panels don't generate during the max demand time for electricity? Or the clear cutting of forests to provide high CO2 output BIOMASS? I know I keep getting told it justified and the multi-tudes getting rich off these schems really just have good intentions. What road is paved with good intentions? I agree we should be lowering our CO2 output...and efficency and conservation at this moment are the most cost effective way...of course $80 Billion in new tax credits wouldn't find it way to those with the biggest lobbying would it. Good inention are not always the smartest way. Should we do it right or just give away as much money as possible and make electricity unaffordable for the poor?

Paul Ebert's picture
Paul Ebert on Jan 31, 2013

I'm curious what you feel would be the right way.

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