After giving an unabashedly liberal inaugural address, approving a pipeline that environmental groups say will contribute greatly to global warming and possibly taint a major Midwestern aquifer would probably not be among President Barack Obama’s priorities for his second term.
But the president should do so and soon, before the Republicans and the energy industry on one side and the environmentalists on the other can make it a major political issue. And it would remove a major irritant in U.S.-Canadian relations since the Canadians very much want to see it built.
One by one the Obama administration’s objections to the $7 billion project, which would carry 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, have been met.
Nebraska, the state that potentially could be most adversely affected by a spill from the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, has signed off on the project, as have the other five states the line will cross.
Nebraska GOP Gov. John Heineman, initially an opponent, said that a rerouting of the pipeline around environmentally sensitive lands had satisfied his concerns, the same concerns Obama cited when he blocked the pipeline last January. Heineman might also have been swayed by the $418 million in economic benefits the line would bring to his state.
House Speaker John Boehner said Nebraska’s approval of the route “means there is no bureaucratic excuse, hurdle or catch President Obama can use to delay this project any further.” Actually, there is one: the State Department is reviewing the project, which was first proposed in 2008. The study is expected to approve the project in March, which would leave the administration truly out of excuses.
Obama professes to be serious about climate change, but the various forms of “clean” energy have yet to be proved economically and technologically feasible on anything like the scale needed to fill America’s energy needs.
Thanks to major finds of natural gas and oil, the United States is virtually energy independent and is actually exporting modest amounts of oil. Given the instability of many of the global energy-producing areas, that independence should not be surrendered lightly.