Obama to visit 4 states for dam­age con­trol on en­ergy is­sues

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY SU­SAN CRAB­TREE

Pres­i­dent Obama hits the road this week to try to shake off two per­sis­tent po­lit­i­cal li­a­bil­i­ties — Key­stone XL and Solyn­dra — and their on­go­ing dam­age to his re-elec­tion hopes.

In­stead of shy­ing away from these two po­lit­i­cal hot pota­toes, Mr. Obama seems de­ter­mined to try to change the public’s mind about them — or at least ex­plain how they fit into his stated “all of the above” ap­proach to en­ergy.

It won’t be an easy task, es­pe­cially with vot­ers wor­ried that ris­ing gas prices could thwart the eco­nomic re­cov­ery and po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents charg­ing that Mr. Obama is more com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing clean-en­ergy al­ter­na­tives in the long term than try­ing to ex­pand drilling and in­crease sup­ply im­me­di­ately.

The pres­i­dent on Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day will travel to three pres­i­den­tial bat­tle­ground states Ne­vada, New Mex­ico, and Ohio — as well as the Re­pub­li­can strong­hold of Ok­la­homa.

He will be­gin his tour in Ne­vada, look­ing to undo some of the dam­age cre­ated by Solyn­dra, the now-bank­rupt Cal­i­for­nia so­lar com­pany that got $535 mil­lion in En­ergy Depart­ment loan guar­an­tees from the ad­min­is­tra­tion. He plans to visit the Cop­per Moun­tain So­lar 1 fa­cil­ity in Boul­der City, which the White House says is the coun­try’s largest pho­to­voltaic plant — the same type of en­ergy tech­nol­ogy Solyn­dra de­signed and man­u­fac­tured.

But his decision to head to the scar­let-red state of Ok­la­homa, where he plans to tout the con­struc­tion of the south­ern leg of the Key­stone XL pipe­line, may be the most po­lit­i­cally risky.

Mr. Obama plans to de­liver re­marks Thurs­day at a stor­age yard for pipes that will be used for the south­ern por­tion of the Key­stone XL pipe­line, which would help move a glut of U.S. oil stored in Cush­ing, Okla., down to Texas re­finer­ies.

The pres­i­dent has taken a po­lit­i­cal beat­ing since Jan­uary for block­ing Re­pub­li­can at­tempts to speed up ap­proval for the broader 1,700-mile project from Al­berta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast, but when Tran­scanada moved ahead with the par­tial project, the White House wel­comed the move and now plans to sing its praises and align the pres­i­dent with the project.

“The pres­i­dent has ap­proved dozens of pipe­lines,” Mr. Obama’s top cam­paign strate­gist, David Ax­el­rod, said on CBS’ “Face the Na­tion” Sun­day, re­fer­ring to the trip to Ok­la­homa. “So, he’s cer­tainly not hos­tile to trans­port­ing oil, but we have to do it in an ap­pro­pri­ate way.”

But crit­ics on the left and right said Mr. Obama’s travel this week is a trans­par­ent po­lit­i­cal at­tempt to have it both ways and may end up alien­at­ing more peo­ple than it as­sures.

“Pres. Off to Ok­la­homa to cel­e­brate south­ern leg of key­stone — this is a cal­cu­lated slap, and stings,” tweeted en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Bill Mckibben, who helped lead protests against the pro­posed pipe­line. “Solomon pro­posed split­ting the baby — Obama al­ways ac­tu­ally tries to do it.”

Cindy Schild, a se­nior man­ager at the Amer­i­can Petroleum In­sti­tute, said the par­tial pipe­line would pro­duce just 4,000 im­me­di­ate jobs com­pared to the 20,000 for the full project, and API CEO Jack Ger­ard told re­porters Tues­day that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion needs a re­al­ity check.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion says it’s al­ready do­ing a good enough job pro­mot­ing oil and nat­u­ral gas de­vel­op­ment,” Mr. Ger­ard said. “Check the num­bers, it says. We did, and they show oil and nat­u­ral gas pro­duc­tion on fed­eral lands and wa­ters

has lagged be­hind de­vel­op­ment on pri­vate and state lands. In fact, pro­duc­tion in fed­eral ar­eas has trended down be­tween the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s first year in of­fice, 2009, and last year, 2011.”

Right on cue, the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist group, sent out a memo Tues­day blast­ing the south­ern por­tion of the Key­stone pipe­line ahead of the pres­i­dent’s trip.

“Don’t be fooled into think­ing a south­ern por­tion of the Key­stone XL pipe­line project isn’t about tar sands. It is,” the memo warned. “And split­ting the tar sands pipe­line project in half ... doesn’t make it any bet­ter.”


Pres­i­dent Obama de­liv­ers re­marks on en­ergy Thurs­day in Largo. He will dis­cuss the Key­stone pipe­line and Solyn­dra in four states over the next few days.

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