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article imageOp-Ed: Will Obama approve Keystone XL pipeline?

By Ken Hanly     Jun 25, 2013 in Environment
Washington - In his speech today, President Obama said that the Keystone XL pipeline would be in the interests of the US only if it "does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution".
As usual, Obama's phraseology leaves itself open to different interpretations. For those opposed to the project who believe that the pipeline would significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution, Obama can be seen as signalling his disapproval.
The entire text of Obama's speech is available here but on the issue of approving the Keystone XL pipeline he said: "Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. (Applause.) The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant."
Forbes points out that the State Department in its March draft review of the environmental impact of the project concluded that it would have a very small impact on the greenhouse gas emissions. The main reason for this conclusion is that the crude would get to market in any event whether the pipeline is built or not.
Forbes argues that there would be more carbon emissions if the pipeline were not built. The Forbes' article claims that the oil would be sent by diesel-powered oil tankers putting more emissions into the atmosphere. Presumably too, the heavy oil would then be moved by rail. Forbes also argues that in the grand scheme of things at the very most the amount of carbon emissions linked to transporting oil by the pipeline would amount to less than half of one per cent of total global emissions. Forbes concludes that since there is no way that anyone could argue that Keystone XL would “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution” globally that Obama will ultimately approve the pipeline.
An article in Russia Today reasons in a similar manner pointing out that the State Department had already concluded that the Keystone XL project would have only a small impact on climate change and hence that Obama was hinting that the project would be approved soon.
No doubt many environmentalists would see the pipeline approval as a betrayal of Obama's own clean energy policies in his speech. Obama talked of restricting emissions on coal-fired power plants and investing considerable sums in alternative energy projects. However, a recent Pew survey shows that 66 percent of Americans who know about the project approved of it. Many supporters including some unions stress the jobs the project would create. But Bill McKibben an anti-Keystone activist said: “The president is a logical man, and hence it would seem so odd to take two steps forward and then two back.And I’m certain he understands that KXL is the environmental fight of our time, the place where he’ll be finally judged.”
Other players, including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also think that Obama is a logical man and hence will decide to approve the pipeline. Harper thinks that approval is so obviously the correct decision that he has called it a "no-brainer". Joe Oliver, Canadian Natural Resources Minister noted: “Today President Obama made clear that Keystone XL would be approved if it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of greenhouse gas emissions". He then pointed out that a recent US State Department report forecast no significant increase in emission-causing activity if the project went ahead.
As usual, Obama seems deliberately evasive on the issue, giving both sides hope but refusing to make clear whether he intends to approve the project or not. He added a little tid bit for the environmentalists that drew applause:" I put forward in the past an all-of-the-above energy strategy, but our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil. And, by the way, it’s certainly got to be about more than just building one pipeline. (Applause.) " Obama is about as clear on the issue as the Delphic Oracle.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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