Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted February 12, 2015
In a democratic republic like ours, the legislative branch is the voice of the people. Throughout the long – too long – debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, the White House has used politics to stymie a conclusion on the matter. But no more.
House approval of a Senate bill advancing the pipeline will require President Obama to finally decide. Bipartisan majorities in both houses of the Congress of the United States have spoken. The American people, through their elected representatives, have spoken. The president should listen.
Unfortunately, the White House has signaled that he won’t, that he will veto the Keystone XL bill. It would make a mockery of post-Election 2014 assurances from the president that he would work with Congress to accomplish substantive things for the American people. Substantive things like: 42,100 jobs that the U.S. State Department says would be supported by the pipeline’s construction, $2 billion in workers’ pockets and $3.4 billion added to U.S. GDP, according to State’s report, and 830,000 barrels of oil from Canada and the U.S. Bakken region – North American oil that would strengthen U.S. energy security
All of the above and more clearly make the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the national interest.
Posted February 6, 2015
EPA’s 13th-hour ambush of the Keystone XL pipeline and the project’s environmental reviews by the U.S. State Department looks like more of the political gamesmanship the Obama administration has used to keep the pipeline on hold for more than six years. But perhaps EPA overplayed its hand.
As we pointed out, EPA’s letter urging officials to “revisit” the State Department’s Keystone XL conclusions is awkwardly and perhaps suspiciously late. State has done five separate environmental reviews, with the last one completed more than a year ago. This week, while other involved federal agencies weighed in on the pipeline’s merits from a national-interest standpoint, EPA lobbied to revisit established science.
Second, the agency’s assertion that the current global price of oil affects the State Department’s environmental conclusion – that Keystone XL would have no significant impact – is oddly at odds with the agency’s position that the current global price of oil has no effect on EPA’s own policymaking decisions.
Third, EPA did some manipulating of what State said about Keystone XL’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions – its letter citing only the largest numbers in State’s range of possible effects. A reasonable conclusion is that there’s a whiff of politics, for strategic effect, in EPA’s doings.
Posted February 3, 2015
After more than six years of delaying, blocking, sidetracking and goalpost-shifting on the Keystone XL pipeline, the White House clearly knows something about political football – specifically, using all of the above to keep Keystone XL on the drawing board and out of the ground.
It’s not a game to the American workers who’ve seen coveted jobs delayed, nor is it fun for the entire country, in terms of blocked economic stimulus and sidetracked energy security.
Now EPA is tagging in with an out-of-left-field assessment of the State Department’s final environmental review. We say that because State’s environmental report was completed a year ago – making five reviews that all basically said Keystone XL would not significantly impact the environment, climate or otherwise.
While other involved federal agencies recently weighed in on the pipeline’s importance to U.S. national interests, EPA – at the 13th hour – says current crude oil prices make it important to “revisit” State’s environmental conclusions.
Unfortunately, for an administration that has practically made a badge of honor out of stiff-arming Keystone XL – in the face of bipartisan congressional support and the broad favor of the American people – EPA is simply providing another excuse for the White House to continue doing nothing.
Posted January 31, 2015
The long trail of “process” excuses for not approving the Keystone XL pipeline is coming to an end.
Five U.S. State Department reviews – all of them basically saying Keystone XL won’t significantly affect the environment – done.
Public hearings – done.
A new pipeline route through Nebraska – done.
By Monday, federal agencies must weigh in on whether Keystone XL is in the national interest. It is, as we’ll get into below.
The point is, after more than six years of process and review by the White House, we’ve come to the end of the processing and the reviewing. The administration stretched to 76 months a pipeline approval process that typically takes 18 to 24 months. It turned Keystone XL into a political football, punted here and there for reasons that clearly weren’t in the national interest.
Posted January 22, 2015
During his State of the Union speech President Obama talked about expanding trade and building up the middle class. Both good objectives. And, while a president’s annual message to Congress usually is full of goals that are mostly aspirational, both of these are attainable – through energy.
First, the president could work to end the ban on the export of domestic crude oil, a relic of the 1970s and an era of U.S. energy scarcity. A supply of light sweet crude, mismatched for a refinery sector largely configured to handle heavier crudes, would be able to reach overseas markets. This would help support domestic production and jobs – many of them well-paying middle-class jobs – while benefitting our trade balance.
Likewise, the administration could stop slow-walking approvals for planned U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities to export LNG to non-free trade agreement nations – again, spurring domestic production and jobs and improving America’s trade bottom line.
Both would increase the U.S. presence in global energy markets – expanding world supply, helping allies and strengthening American foreign policy – all consistent with our country’s status as an energy superpower.
Second and more specifically, the president could approve the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s needed energy infrastructure that would bring more than 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada and the U.S. Midwest, support tens of thousands of U.S. jobs – good middle-class jobs – and help strengthen the U.S. energy/trading relationship with Canada, our No. 1 source of imported oil.
Posted January 21, 2015
In a State of the Union address that mostly skimmed over energy issues – remarkable, given the generational opportunities stemming from America’s ongoing energy revolution – President Obama still underscored the yawning disconnect between his all-of-the-above energy rhetoric and his administration’s failure to put that rhetoric into action.
Talking about the need for infrastructure investment, the president said:
“Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan ... infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year and make this country stronger for decades to come. Let’s do it. Let’s get it done.”
We agree. America’s infrastructure needs are greater than a single oil pipeline – the political football known as the Keystone XL – which the president has been punting around for more than six years.
But there’s no good reason, no good excuse, for not making the Keystone XL pipeline Job No. 1 in a procession of infrastructure projects. President Obama hasn’t offered any beyond calling “temporary” the 42,100 jobs the U.S. State Department has said Keystone XL would support. Yet, those jobs are no more temporary than the ones that would be supported by building bridges, roads and other projects the president routinely cites.
That’s the disconnect between what President Obama peddles in speeches to Congress and around the country – and what his administration is doing.
Posted January 13, 2015
As the Keystone XL pipeline debate in Congress continues, working Americans are pushing back against those – including President Obama – who dismiss as “temporary” the jobs the project would support.
North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) published an open letter to members of Congress that asks a simple question: “When did our careers and livelihoods become fodder for disdain and ridicule?”
Great question, because disparaging the more than 42,000 jobs Keystone XL would support during its construction – according to the U.S. State Department – has become a standard line of attack from Keystone XL opponents, from the president on down.
The union ad makes clear that those who work in the construction trades have had it with politicians who are double-tongued about the need to put Americans back to work and the need for infrastructure investment – while brushing off the way Keystone XL could help with both.
Posted January 13, 2015
The federal approval process for cross-border pipelines (and there are many) historically has taken 18 to 24 months, yet the White House says that more than six years isn't enough time to determine whether the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest.
Perhaps the State Department can help them out with analysis that argues that infrastructure of this nature is in the national interest – a point grasped by a strong majority of Americans in the Keystone XL debate – which seems to elude the White House. Now, if the White House doesn’t want to listen to what its own State Department says about infrastructure, maybe another voice will be more persuasive.
Posted December 11, 2014
Near the end of his appearance on the “Colbert Report” earlier this week, President Obama tells host Stephen Colbert that getting things done is the real satisfaction he takes from his job:
“I love the job, and it’s an incredible privilege. But when you’re in it you’re not thinking about it in terms of titles. You’re thinking about how do you deliver for the American people?”
Ironically, the remark about delivering for the American people comes just a few minutes after the president offers up familiar excuses for failing to deliver for the American people on the Keystone XL pipeline. With Americans backing the pipeline by more than 3 to 1, it looks like President Obama isn’t listening to the people he’s supposed to serve – or is simply ignoring them.
The president’s Keystone XL rhetoric remains starkly at odds with the facts – including those proffered by his own State Department. State has completed five separate environmental reviews on Keystone XL over more than six years, all of which cleared by the pipeline. Whether President Obama is talking to business executives or cutting up with Colbert, he’s startlingly disconnected with fact on Keystone XL.
Posted December 5, 2014
Speaking to business executives earlier this week, President Obama lamented how long it takes to make infrastructure improvements in the U.S.:
“The challenge for infrastructure has been that … it’s hard to pay for things if you don’t have some sort of revenue stream. And I’ve been exploring … to see how we can do more in attracting private investment into infrastructure construction – which is done fairly effectively in a lot of other countries …”
Later, he praised the Chinese for how quickly they tackle infrastructure needs:
“… the one thing I will say is that if they need to build some stuff, they can build it. And over time, that wears away our advantage competitively. It’s embarrassing – you drive down the roads, and you look at what they’re able to do.”
For more than six years one of the largest infrastructure projects to come along in some time has been staring back at President Obama, waiting for him to say “go”: the Keystone XL pipeline.
By now many Americans – who favor Keystone XL’s construction by more than a 3-to-1 margin – probably can tick off the points arguing for the project’s approval.