Key­stone pipe­line moves to post-elec­tion fore­front

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

With a sec­ond term now in hand, Pres­i­dent Obama no longer can de­lay a de­ci­sion on the Key­stone XL pipe­line and must ei­ther side with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists within his party or green­light a ma­jor step to­ward North Amer­i­can en­ergy in­de­pen­dence.

The pipe­line de­ci­sion could be an early sign for the di­rec­tion of Mr. Obama’s green agenda for the next four years, af­ter a cam­paign in which he sparred with Repub­li­can op­po­nent Mitt Rom­ney over the pipe­line and on is­sues such as sub­si­dies for al­ter­na­tive en­ergy com­pa­nies, the fu­ture of the coal in­dus­try, and drilling pol­icy on fed­eral lands and along the na­tion’s coasts.

Green-en­ergy and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups said Nov. 7 that they were buoyed by the pres­i­dent’s re­elec­tion and that they think it will kick off an­other chap­ter for clean en­ergy in Amer­ica. Mr. Obama’s pre­vi­ous at­tempt to tackle car­bon emis­sions, the ill-fated and un­pop­u­lar “cap-and-trade bill,” died in the Demo­crat-dom­i­nated Congress dur­ing Mr. Obama’s first two years in of­fice, but many of the pres­i­dent’s sup­port­ers see his re-elec­tion as an op­por­tu­nity to res­ur­rect it.

“The pub­lic stands with us from clean en­ergy to ad­dress­ing cli­mate change. This elec­tion and our polling in­di­cate a man­date from the Amer­i­can peo­ple on the en­vi­ron­ment and pub­lic health. Now is the time to act,” said Heather Tay­lor-Miesele, di­rec­tor of the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil Ac­tion Fund.

“The en­vi­ron­ment won, and pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries lost. There is no clearer way to state it,” said Jamie Rap­pa­port Clark, pres­i­dent of the De­fend­ers of Wildlife Ac­tion Fund. “The big­gest win­ners last night are the gen­er­a­tions yet to come as Amer­i­cans over­whelm­ingly chose to leave them a cleaner, bet­ter world in which to live.”

Sup­port­ers and op­po­nents of the $7 bil­lion Key­stone project wasted lit­tle time in putting pres­sure on the pres­i­dent af­ter Tues­day’s vote. Within hours of the Demo­crat’s win, each side again made its case to Mr. Obama, who late last year put off a de­ci­sion about the pipe­line.

“Amer­i­cans have made their de­ci­sion. … Right off the bat, the pres­i­dent can ap­prove the Key­stone pipe­line and put thou­sands of Amer­i­cans to work im­me­di­ately,” said Jack Ger­ard, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Amer­i­can Pe­tro­leum In­sti­tute.

The in­sti­tute and other groups have crit­i­cized the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for its han­dling of the project, which would bring Cana­dian oil sands to Gulf Coast re­finer­ies through a mas­sive pipe­line stretch­ing through the U.S. heart­land down to the Texas coast.

Throughout the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Mr. Rom­ney cited the is­sue as an ex­am­ple of the pres­i­dent’s un­will­ing­ness to take ad­van­tage of North Amer­i­can en­ergy re­sources as a way to free the na­tion from the grip of Mid­dle Eastern oil.

But Mr. Obama, sen­si­tive to the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment that helps form the base of the Demo­cratic Party, de­ferred a de­ci­sion when it ap­peared that the State Depart­ment was about to ap­prove the project. Criticism from en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists will grow louder now that they think Mr. Obama can stop the pipe­line with­out sus­tain­ing po­lit­i­cal dam­age.

In fact, they say he now has a man­date to take more dras­tic steps to re­duce the use of fos­sil fu­els, pro­mote “green” en­ergy al­ter­na­tives and cut car­bon emis­sions through taxes and reg­u­la­tions.

Within min­utes of Mr. Obama’s vic­tory, a coali­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal groups an­nounced a ma­jor demon­stra­tion at the White House on Nov. 18 to urge the pres­i­dent to re­ject the pipe­line as part of a larger strat­egy to ad­dress cli­mate change.

“Now that the elec­tion is over, a de­ci­sion by the pres­i­dent is im­mi­nent. … Key­stone XL is still a crazy idea, a gi­ant straw into the sec­ond-big­gest pool of car­bon,” reads the coali­tion’s an­nounce­ment, signed by the Sierra Club and nearly a dozen other groups. “Barack Obama is now even more the man who holds the fate of the tar sands ex­pan­sion in his hands. … We sim­ply need to let the pres­i­dent know we haven’t for­got­ten, and that our con­vic­tion hasn’t cooled.”

Their cau­tious faith in Mr. Obama in re­gard to the pipe­line is in­dica­tive of a larger is­sue: En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and oth­ers hope that the pres­i­dent will be­gin mak­ing tough de­ci­sions in his sec­ond term on del­i­cate is­sues such as cli­mate change.

He ad­dressed the is­sue, which had been largely ab­sent from the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, dur­ing his vic­tory speech in Chicago on elec­tion night.

“We want our chil­dren to live in an Amer­ica … that isn’t threat­ened by the de­struc­tive power of a warm­ing planet,” Mr. Obama said.

He also de­clared that free­ing the na­tion from its re­liance on for­eign oil would be a top pri­or­ity of his sec­ond term.

Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers on the world stage and in the U.S. ap­pear ea­ger to see Mr. Obama take ac­tion to ad­dress cli­mate change.

U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Kimoon con­grat­u­lated Mr. Obama on his vic­tory and said he looks for­ward “to pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and tack­ling the chal­lenges posed by cli­mate change.” New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg sounded a sim­i­lar note in the days be­fore the vote, en­dors­ing Mr. Obama as a pres­i­dent “to lead on cli­mate change.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An ir­ri­ga­tion pivot re­mains still along high­way 14, sev­eral miles near a pro­posed route for the Key­stone XL pipe­line in Ne­ligh, Neb.

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