Your remainder is an unjustifiable egotistical power struggle. At the expense of the American dream.
— System of a Down
President Obama was hailed by environmentalists last month when he rejected Canadian company TransCanada’s plan to build a 1,700-mile pipeline that would carry oil extracted from tar sands in Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast to be refined.
And while the move may indeed have helped head off a potential environmental disaster that some experts say could have left parts of the nation’s breadbasket without drinking water, Obama doesn’t deserve the accolades. Essentially, the president was forced into taking one tough election-year choice over the other, and he took the path of least resistance.
In choosing to halt the construction of the pipeline, at least temporarily — he left open the possibility of a reversal, no doubt after the election — Obama angered the deep-pocketed representatives of Big Oil, whose contributions have impacted Obama administration policies and rendered the president’s campaign promises of environmental responsibility little more than the same old political hot air that preceded him.
And there’s no question he incensed TransCanada officials, who reportedly had already spent $2 billion in land acquisition and on parts for the pipeline.
Republicans, as expected, jumped on the Big Oil-produced propaganda train and condemned Obama for “killing jobs” and deepening America’s dependence on foreign oil. Newt Gingrich, who at the time was still relevant in the Republican presidential race, called Obama’s decision “stunningly stupid.”
Environmental groups and others who opposed the Keystone XL pipeline are claiming victory and lauding the president’s decision, as if he’d made a well-thought-out choice after looking at the potential environmental damage the pipeline might have wrought. His remarks in making the announcement, though, indicate the president was basing his decision on what his advisors perceived to be the most politically prudent.
“As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment,” Obama said in a Jan. 17 speech.
In other words: “It’s the Republicans’ fault” ... blah, blah, blah ... “health and safety ... environment” ... “there, I nailed it.”
The president, had he not been overly concerned about the political blowback from his decision, might have simply pointed out a few things about this project that would have opened the eyes of the remaining few in this country who do not obediently repeat the buzz words of their chosen political party:
The proposed pipeline is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. It has already led to the destruction of thousands of acres of trees and left toxic sludge in once-pristine Canadian forestland.
The reason for the pipeline is pure economics: The only way oil companies can get top dollar for the tar sand is to pipe the product to the Gulf Coast for refinement and then ship it to markets in Europe and Asia. In other words, most of this oil was not intended for American consumption.
Farmers and ranchers, particularly in the environmentally fragile Sand Hills area of Nebraska, fear the disastrous results of an oil spill. The University of Nebraska released a report saying even a tiny leak in the pipeline could contaminate five billion gallons of water, leaving many in the Plains states with no source for drinking or farming.
Keystone I, another TransCanada pipeline that brought tar sand to refineries in Oklahoma, had so many leaks during its first year of operation it had to be shut down for repairs.
The State Department clearly refutes the jobs claims made by oil company propaganda. Instead of the supposed 20,000 jobs and up to a million spinoff jobs and $20 billion impact on the U.S. economy, the State Department estimated the pipeline would create 6,000 construction jobs and only 50 permanent jobs once the project was completed.
Obama might also have won a few tea party friends if he’d acknowledged that group’s primary complaint: That TransCanada officials illegally threatened property owners who did not sell their land along the proposed pipeline route with eminent domain proceedings, as if a foreign entity could confiscate American land.
President Obama made the right choice when he nixed this potentially environmentally devastating project. But he made it for the wrong reasons. Rather than killing the Keystone XL project because of the dangers it posed to American people and the environment, he did it for political gain.
While sticking to the party line, presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hit the nail on the head when he said the decision “shows a president who once again has put politics ahead of sound policy.”
Email Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.