By denying a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline last week, President Barack Obama may succeed in delaying until after November's election the politically difficult decision of which loyal constituency to offend, big labor or environmental activists.
What is more certain is that the political maneuvering to deny a permit for the controversial 1,600-mile pipeline from Canadian wells to Texas refineries has an immediate, deleterious effect: It costs America thousands of jobs. The president's decision is contrary to consumer needs, ultimately contributing to higher energy prices, and misses an opportunity to reduce reliance on oil from unfriendly nations.
Apparently the president is not interested in creating truly "shovel-ready" jobs. His strategic delay is all the more offensive because if Obama ends up approving the permit, he will have succeeded only in delaying job creation.
The president says TransCanada may reapply for a permit along an alternative route, bypassing the Nebraska Sandhills, which some environmentalists claim could be harmed by oil leaks. Although the firm is expected to reapply, the delay probably means a final decision won't be made until after the Nov. 6 election, according to the Washington Post.
Environmentalists allege the pipeline to transport crude extracted from Canadian oil sands would contribute to climate change, and could leak. Given current technology, leaks are unlikely, but certainly manageable if they occur, posing little ecological threat. Climate change is the all-encompassing canard invoked to deny nearly any industrial activity on a presumption of dire atmospheric consequences, which are far from proven.
"The pipeline was proven to be environmentally safe," says Karen Kerrigan, president of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. While environmental harm is debatable, the White House's rejection is certain to mean delay of thousands of new jobs. "The project was set to create 20,000 immediate jobs and 118,000 spinoff jobs in businesses of all sizes," Kerrigan said.
The president's claim that the pipeline was being rushed is a limp excuse. When it suits the White House, federal officials have little trouble hastily approving much more suspect projects, particularly when they involve Obama campaign donors, such as the ill-fated Solyndra solar panel plant that failed, despite $535 million in federal loan guarantees. Clearly, the president can expedite when it suits him.
We agree with Myron Ebell, of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who says that by blocking construction the president makes it clear "that when he says over and over again that 'we can't wait' to create jobs and economic growth, it is merely hypocritical political posturing. Contrary to his phony rhetoric, President Obama's real goals are to reduce energy supplies, raise energy prices for American consumers and destroy jobs."
Candidate Obama may have misjudged the political fallout. The Laborers' International Union of North America called his decision "politics at its worst." The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said the union remained hopeful the delay is temporary, but condemned "political deadlock" delaying creation of 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs, $585 million in state and local taxes, $5 billion in property taxes and reduced energy dependence.