Can John Kerry change Obama's two-sided stand on Keystone XL pipeline?
While President Obama has been focused on the sequester and Secretary of State John Kerry has been on a 9 nation foreign policy blitz, the state department quietly released a report on the Keystone XL pipeline that has been soundly rejected as near-fiction by the environmental community.
The jaw-dropping line in the report said that Keystone would “unlikely have substantial impact on the rate of development of the oil sands.”
What? Why would TransCanada drop billions of dollars into the construction of more pipeline if they weren’t interested in dramatically pumping up production of tar sands oil? In addition, the State Department report didn’t address the immeasurable impact on climate change by the use of such a dirty, expensive, water-guzzling extraction process or national security.
Environmentalists are hoping climate hawk John Kerry— who has vowed to make sure decisions on the Keystone pipeline would be based on sound science, not ideology— will find the recent state department report to be woefully reckless and insufficient.
According to narrative in ThinkProgress on Keystone, there is an excerpt from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ own report that refutes the State Department’s claim that tar sands extraction won’t be significantly increased if the pipeline gets approved:
Production from oil sands currently comprises 59 percent of western Canada’s total crude oil production. In this forecast, oil sands production rises from 1.6 million b/d in 2011 to almost double at 3.1 million b/d by 2020 and 4.2 million b/d by 2025 and 5.0 million b/d by the end of the forecast period in 2030. If the only projects to proceed were the ones in operation or currently under construction, oil sands production would still increase by 54 percent to 2.5 million b/d by 2020 and then remain relatively flat for the rest of the forecast.
Completion of Keystone would increase Canadian extraction of oil from tar sands from 2 million barrels a day to 3 million. So, the pressure is on from every political direction for Obama, who has vowed to fight climate change in his second term, to approve the lynchpin piece needed to expand production of oil from tar sands over the next decade.
Republicans, petroleum corporations and unions praised the report, which signaled, in their view, a move forward on Keystone approval. Their estimation of 60,000 to 100,000 jobs to be created by the project has been widely discredited and will most likely be closer to 5,000 temporary positions.
Environmentalists in the US and Canada see approval of Keystone as locking both nations onto a long-term path of pulling out the worst of the worst in dirty oil products, then using toxic chemicals to thin down the viscosity enough to move it through a pipeline over the heart of America.
Last month, the largest climate change rally in history organized by the Sierra Club, lobbied on the National Mall at DC to oppose the pipeline and support Obama’s new direction on climate, which was not a priority in his first term.
Critics of the pipeline point out the State Department study of Keystone was launched a year ago during a time when Obama was bragging about his oil-drilling record and seemed to be leaning toward approving the pipeline to appease obstinate Republicans, but the department wanted more time for environmental studies.
Now, the election is over and winds are blowing in a different direction. Hurricane Sandy brought the words “global warming” and “climate change” out of the pollution-filled closet.
The world is watching to see what President Obama and John Kerry decide on this vital issue. The European Union’s climate minister Connie Hedegaard said Obama’s rejection of Keystone pipeline would send a strong signal on his commitment to fight climate change. She had this to say last week as reported in The Hill:
If you had a US administration that would avoid doing something that they could do, with the argument that in the time we are living in, with the climate change we are faced with, we should not do everything we can do, then I think it would be a very, very interesting global signal.
If Obama and Kerry can’t get past the wall of Republican obstructionists in Congress to pass meaningful controls on C02 emissions, at the very least, they can choose not add to the problem by approving Keystone XL.
The State Department report will have a 45-day public comment period, so any final decision will not likely be made until mid-summer or later.
Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director, Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for keystone-prairie-dogs.com, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.