Keystone decision delayed

The Obama administration has announced that they are delaying their decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election.

Some of the organizers of the protests in Washington are declaring victory, but I am still nervous about the whole thing.

For one thing, it is possible that Obama will get re-elected and then decide to approve the pipeline. Right now, he is worried about maintaining the support of his electoral base going into the presidential contest. After the election, he will never have to run again. Crucially, his own party will not be so worried about angering environmentalists. Right now, it is just possible that Democratic strategists are more scared of angry environmentalists than they are of Republicans. After the election, that will not be true and we are likely to see more of the same sort of compromises that have kept Guantanamo Bay open and prevented carbon pricing legislation from passing.

Of course, it is also possible that Obama will lose the election and be replaced by a Republican who is keen on digging up and importing as much as possible from the oil sands. It seems to me that having the Obama administration say no to the pipeline before the election would be preferable to them simply putting off the decision.

Even if Keystone XL is now dead, there is still more work to do. The next step is to block the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, which will seek to transport crude oil from the oil sands to the west coast of Canada. There are also plans to export oil sands crude by rail and to expand the Kinder Morgan TMX pipeline.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

62 thoughts on “Keystone decision delayed”

  1. Obviously, this is a big victory and people like Bill McKibben and the Tar Sands Action team deserve huge credit.

    I am just the sort of person who wants to make sure something is completely certain, before I start celebrating. I am a cautious sort who cringes whenever I see the heroes in a monster movie assuming that their latest attack has finally killed the creature that has been tormenting them – it is always possible that it will rise up again when you let down your guard!

  2. But today the president sent the pipeline back to the State Department for a thorough re-review, which most analysts are saying will effectively kill the project. The president explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as one of the factors that a new review would need to assess. There’s no way, with an honest review, that a pipeline that helps speed the tapping of the world’s second-largest pool of carbon can pass environmental muster.

    And he has made clear that the environmental assessment won’t be carried out by cronies of the pipeline company, that this time it will be an expert and independent assessment. We will watch that process like hawks, making sure that it doesn’t succumb to more cronyism. Perhaps this effort will go some tiny way toward cleaning up the Washington culture of corporate dominance that came so dramatically to light here in emails and lobbyist disclosure forms.

    It’s important to understand how unlikely this victory is. Six months ago, almost no one outside the pipeline route even knew about Keystone. One month ago, a poll of “energy insiders” by National Journal found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end. As late as last week, CBC reported that TransCanada was moving huge quantities of pipe across the border and seizing land by eminent domain, certain that its permit would be granted. A done deal has come spectacularly undone.

  3. The Obama administration has decided to delay a decision on the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline until after the 2012 election. This is only a temporary, inadequate victory, but an extraordinary achievement for the thousands of grassroots activists who put ourselves on the line. It’s also clear evidence for the environmental movement that directly targeting President Obama works, and probably works better than any other strategy. (Kudos especially to, Bill McKibben, Friends of the Earth, and Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb.)

    As amazing as this progress is, however, let’s not delude ourselves: President Obama is just kicking the climate can down the road to a point when he may not even be in a position to decide its fate. In the not-unlikely scenario that he loses reelection, approving the tar-sands pipeline will be an easy way for President Romney to give Big Oil a huge thank-you gift for all the help they provide him during the 2012 election. This decision just postpones a green light for the pipeline by a year. And it’s unclear to what extent the administration is really reconsidering the pipeline, or just reconsidering the poorly chosen pipeline route.

    That’s why I’m a little dismayed at suggestions that this kick-the-can decision means environmentalists will enthusiastically back President Obama in 2012. Is the price of an environmentalist’s vote a year’s delay on environmental catastrophe? Excuse me, no.

  4. How the 99 Percent Beat Keystone XL
    Jamie Henn | 2 hours ago

    Sometimes, the 99 percent win.

    On Thursday afternoon, President Obama announced that the State Department will be sending plans for TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline back to the drawing board. Most analysts think the 12- to 18-month delay will cause enough cost overruns and missed contracts that TransCanada will have to scrap the project altogether.
    Keystone XL was going to be another fuse to the largest carbon bomb in North America: the Canadian tar sands. The tar sands are the dirtiest fuel on the face of the planet, and our top climate scientist says fully exploiting them could be “essentially game over” for the climate. We haven’t defused the bomb yet, but fighting Keystone has taught us a lot about how to dismantle it.

    This fight started in indigenous communities in Canada and quickly spread down the pipeline route to ranchers in Nebraska and farmers in Texas. National environmental groups picked up the beat a while back. But it was the bravery of 1,253 people that transformed Keystone XL from a regional fight into the most important environmental question facing President Obama before the 2012 election.

  5. I see this as a victory of not only the Keystone XL protesters, but also for peaceful non-violent protest in the tradition of Ghandi and King.

  6. Can The Keystone XL Coalition Stop Climate Change?

    Posted on Friday, November 11, 2011

    by Michael Levi

    Bryan Walsh, writing at TIME, is right: Bill McKibben and the Keystone XL protestors have pulled off something pretty impressive. I’m not talking about the merits of the indefinite delay to the pipeline that the State Department announced yesterday – the substantive case for blocking Keystone is weak. But you’d have to be pretty blinkered not to acknowledge that, purely as a matter of organizing and impact, the anti-Keystone movement is punching way above its weight.

    Whether it can translate this victory into something bigger, though, is an entirely different question. I want to explain in this post why I think that the tactics and coalitions that have been deployed to block the pipeline are ill designed to making major progress on climate change – and, indeed, why they may backfire.

    The anti-Keystone protesters have taken a page out of the Tea Party playbook. Tea Partiers have been able to exert outsized leverage on Republicans through visible and passionate public actions along with simple demands that they rein in government. Now environmentalists have managed to do something similar to Democrats with massive protests and simple demands that they not go ahead with Keystone XL.

  7. Flaherty talks tough with U.S. in wake of Keystone pipeline delay


    OTTAWA – Globe and Mail Update

    Last updated Friday, Nov. 11, 2011 5:09PM EST

    One of Canada’s senior-most politicians is upping the stakes after the United States decided to delay a review of the massive Keystone XL pipeline, with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty warning the postponement could kill the project and accelerate this country’s efforts to ship oil to Asia instead.

    Mr. Flaherty offered up this caution from the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Honolulu.

    “The decision to delay it that long is actually quite a crucial decision. I’m not sure this project would survive that kind of delay,” Mr. Flaherty told Bloomberg News. “It may mean that we may have to move quickly to ensure that we can export our oil to Asia through British Columbia.”

    That creates serious concern for Canada’s oil producers, which are just years from running out of room on existing pipelines for their product. Without more pipelines, the oil sands face being forced to slow growth, a possibility that has broad ramifications not just for Alberta, but the entire country.

  8. Those comments touch upon two important points:

    1) Those hoping to limit how much climate change the world suffers must now work to block pipelines to the Pacific.

    2) Successfully blocking Keystone XL will help constrain the growth of the oil sands, and thus the growth of both Canada’s annual and cumulative greenhouse gas pollution.

  9. “You never win any permanent victories in this business. Even if Obama had outright rejected this pipeline yesterday, he could easily approve another one when he gets re-elected. Or Mitt Romney could get in and he brings 20 pipelines with him”

    Bill McKibben, live now

  10. A few notes on winning–and many thanks

    Yesterday was one of the more amazing days of my life. When I started working on this Keystone XL campaign in early summer (years after indigenous leaders and Nebraska ranchers) I thought the odds were almost impossibly against us. Almost being the key word–I wouldn’t have engaged if I didn’t think there was some hope. And the hope was, Barack Obama would have to make the call himself, without Congress in the way. Could we engage him directly?

    As it turns out, we could. Due to the courage of the 1253 people who got arrested in August, and to the incredible energy of millions of people across the country who got involved this fall (no small number of them here at DK) we got something pretty remarkable yesterday: a done deal came spectacularly undone. Transcanada had literally mowed the strip of land where they were going to put the pipeline this winter. They’ve already moved half a billion dollars worth of pipe into staging areas across the prairie, where it now will rust for a good long while. Every energy insider said they were going to win. Instead, they lost.

    Maybe not forever. There are no permanent victories in environmental work. It would have been ever better if Barack Obama had outright rejected the pipeline yesterday instead of sending it back for a new review; there are people saying he’ll just use the review as a cover and approve the pipeline once the election is over. But if he’d rejected Keystone he could have approved another one anyway (there are always plenty of proposals). And President Romney would happily approve a dozen–given his demonstrated strength of character, if the Koch Bros. told him to frack Old Faithful so it spewed gas instead of water, I’m pretty sure he’d ask how high.

  11. Keystone — and other irritants — hang over Harper-Obama meet

    OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Hawaii for an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit and North American leaders meeting threatens to be overshadowed by the Obama administration’s move to delay its Keystone XL pipeline ruling and the overall state of Canada-U.S. relations.

    The so-called ‘Three Amigos’ summit also looks to be going ahead one amigo short: Mexican President Felipe Calderon cancelled his planned appearance following the death of a key figure in Mexico’s bloody war against drug cartels.

    Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, also in Hawaii, warned Friday the $7-billion Keystone pipeline project might not survive a delay until after the U.S. election next November, hinting that other buyers could be found for the oilsands output.

  12. Editorial
    The Right Move on Keystone XL
    Published: November 11, 2011

    President Obama made just the right call on Thursday when he delayed a final decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada until 2013.

    The decision included a heaping self-serving of politics, since a decision either way would have offended somebody among Mr. Obama’s base voters — the labor unions who want the pipeline or the environmentalists who don’t. Yet so many basic questions remained unresolved — about the pipeline’s environmental and economic impacts, about whether the country actually needs the oil — that it was reasonable to decide that a decision was impossible without further study.

    The White House was also troubled by allegations that the State Department, the agency in charge of the pipeline review, had contracted its environmental studies to a company with ties to TransCanada, the pipeline operator. According to other government agencies, the department has consistently low-balled the greenhouse gas emissions that extracting heavy oil from Canada’s tar sand are likely to cause. And the route it had chosen for the 1,700-mile pipeline has aroused bipartisan fury in places like Nebraska, where voters from both parties fear that a leak would poison water supplies.

  13. Harper to buttonhole Obama on pipeline delay Staff

    The possible cancellation of the $7-billion Keystone pipeline will be high on the list of topics when Prime Minister Stephen Harper sits down for a one-on-one meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Hawaii on Sunday night.

    CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife said sources told him the prime minister would raise two key issues at the meeting on Sunday night: the Keystone pipeline, which was put on hold this week; and the long-awaited border security deal.

    “The prime minister is going to tell the president that this is going to cost and delay jobs at a time when the United States and Canada, in an economic slowdown, could use those good-paying unionized jobs,” Fife reported from Hawaii. “He’s also going to make the point that Americans are relying on unstable Middle Eastern oil when you can get a secure source from Canada.”

    The talks between the two leaders will follow the conclusion of the APEC leaders summit where Obama and Harper have been pushing for greater collaboration among member economies.

  14. Hopefully, Obama will be smart and well-briefed enough to see that Harper is the Oil Sands Salesman in Chief and that a lot of what he says is nonsense.

    The Keystone pipeline was largely designed to allow oil sands crude to be exported internationally, not to provide energy security to the United States. Besides, chasing after the dirtiest and most dangerous oil left on earth doesn’t provide ‘security’ to anyone.

    Also, the claims made about how many jobs the pipeline would produce have been proven to be bogus.

  15. Opponents of Northern Gateway pipeline brace for a fight

    Brenda Bouw
    VANCOUVER— From Monday’s Globe and Mail
    Published Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011 9:53PM EST

    After the delay of the Canada-U.S. Keystone XL pipeline, opponents of the Northern Gateway project running from Alberta to British Columbia are preparing for a tougher battle, even as Enbridge Inc. maintains it has no plans to change tactics.

    With Ottawa becoming more anxious to ship Alberta’s oil to Asia, it will intensify the fight for anti-Gateway activists, even though they view the Keystone decision by the United States as a victory.

    “I would expect [Keystone] would increase the resolve for the oil companies to try to come west, as opposed to south. It will also increase the resolve of the federal government,” said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, one of the leading groups in the fight against Gateway.

    “It’s just going to mean we’re going to have to double our efforts as well. That is what we are gearing up to do.”

  16. Canada’s oil industry faces an urgent search for new markets

    Nathan Vanderklippe

    CALGARY— From Monday’s Globe and Mail
    Published Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011 9:18PM EST
    Last updated Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011 9:52PM EST

    The lengthy delay in a U.S. decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has created sudden soul-searching for Canada’s energy and political leaders, who have now turned their attention to opening the way for oil exports to Asia.

    Without new pipe of some form, it will only be a few years before Canada’s oil gets backed up and begins selling at a deep discount, a prospect that stands to erode corporate and government revenues by billions of dollars a year.

    For that reason, the pressure on British Columbia to allow oil to flow across its land and water – for exports to China – is likely to be intense. But the difficulties that sidelined TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone line portend an equally tough future for sending oil to the Canadian West Coast, since the new pipelines required in B.C. are likely to face equally volatile protests – and an even thornier set of legal threats from first nations.

  17. Author and Middlebury College professor Bill McKibben, viewed by many as the anti-pipeline effort’s great galvanizer, credited NOAA climate scientist Jim Hansen and young activist Tim DeChristopher for guiding him to Keystone XL as the centerpiece of a revitalized climate movement.

    Hansen has argued that harvesting Alberta’s tar sands mines will essentially mean “game over” for those trying to rescue the planet from a climate-induced disaster. DeChristopher is serving a two-year prison sentence for a calculated act of civil disobedience. In 2008, he disrupted a Bush administration auction for oil and gas leases in Utah with $1.8 million in fake bids. Afterward, he encouraged the climate movement to trade its safe “middle path” for a more aggressive stance involving civil disobedience and risking arrest.

    “It was Jim helping me understand how much carbon is up there that made the difference,” said McKibben, founder of “And Tim reminded us that the point of civil disobedience is to make people aware that an issue is morally urgent and so important that we’re willing to go to jail for it. I have no doubt he would have been arrested at the White House if he hadn’t been in prison himself.”

  18. The Keystone delay is a mere hickup in the fossil fuel supply chain. If not from the tar sands the ME will only be too happy to continue shipping. They have more oil in the ground than they know what to do with. Overall there will be exactly”0″ impact on CO2 emissions – there is at present no viable alternative fuel for transport. Until there is a global pricing sysytem in place to cost the true value of CO 2 reduction very little will change. Wind and solar are unlikely to be commercially competitive and cannot supply base load. Nuclear power has been politicised beyond rational consideration. We are likely at the limit for exploitable hydro. When gas and diesel are at $2 per litre we may actually do something real. Lastly – pipelines are the safest oil transport mechanism. If not permitted rail tank cars will be used – and those accidents will be nothing like the rare pipe line leak.

  19. Gateway hearings to test oilsands battle plans

    The lasting impact of Obama’s Keystone delay may well be that the environmental movement has a blueprint on how to successfully fight the oilsands.

    The pipelines that deliver the ultraheavy oil to market are the pinch point of vulnerability.

    Essentially, a group of committed environmentalists, a handful of farmers in Nebraska and a small number of celebrity activists were all it took to derail a $7-billion energy infrastructure project that got caught up in election-cycle politics in the United States.

    With Keystone on hold, they can now focus on Gateway.

    Enbridge faces a similar coalition of critics to Keystone. Essentially, a sophisticated environmental lobby (i.e., well-funded) working with an aggrieved local party – substitute the Nebraska farmers associated with Keystone for First Nations along the Gateway route.

    The fact there are more than 40 scheduled public hearings across Alberta and British Columbia beginning in January with more than 4,000 people registered to speak means this will be months of public blasting of oilsands development. That the hearing by a joint panel of the National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has allowed people from anywhere in the world to speak will give the hearings an international flavour, but make the logistics more challenging.

  20. The Keystone pipeline will be built, merely being delayed to reroute over less environmentally sensitive land. Too much energy security is at stake. And I wished the protest crowd would engage beyond the “stop whatever” mentality. What are the alternatives to petroleum based fuels ?? Our entire urban life style depends on this energy for transport and food crops. Yes global warming is a problem, but the much greater risk to humanity is overpopulation. So just as a point of debate consider a doubling or tripling, or quintupling of petroleum based fuel costs, and please don’t spout about electric vehicles, solar or wind energy because there are fundamental engineering limitations to their application. Are all the urbanites going head for the fields and tend their local crops ? I grew up on a farm so be careful how you answer. As for the tar sands – consider that we are cleaning up nature’s ultimate oil spill .-)

  21. Here is one souvenir I brought back from Washington, my copy of Bill McKibben’s American Earth anthology, signed by him outside the White House on the morning when he got arrested:

    Once I am done with the GRE, I really need to finish uploading my Washington photos

  22. Pipeline-altering lessons


    Last updated Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011 10:46AM EST

    A year ago, with an election in the offing, Stephen Harper’s government nixed BHP Billiton’s bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. Public opinion had turned against the Australian giant’s offer in the wake of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s objections. The Harperites, reading the political mood and fearful of losing seats, swallowed their free-enterprise ideology and blocked the takeover.

    So it’s a bit rich to listen to certain voices in the Harper government and among the chorus of lobbyists for the $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline decrying the Obama administration’s 11th-hour decision to further study the route through Nebraska. All politics, they claim, and thus all bad.

    Of course, the delay was about Barack Obama’s precarious relationship with part of his party’s base. Environmentalists are disappointed in the President’s timid policies; postponing a decision on Keystone might assuage their disappointment.

  23. I am noticing more and more conversations in which the Keystone pipeline is being discussed. Is it becaause I am more aware of it or that it is happening more?

  24. Keystone may have been delayed, but there are lots of other fossil fuel projects in North America that are going forward with little public attention and implicit government support.

    It’s enormously worse in places like Russia and the Middle East, where public opinion counts for less and there is less governmental concern about environmental integrity.

  25. Keystone XL pipeline overshadows U.S.-Canada border deal

    President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he wanted answers to the environmental questions about the Keystone XL pipeline, whose delay overshadowed a new U.S.-Canadian border agreement announced on Wednesday.

    Standing next to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the White House, Obama rejected an effort by Republicans in Congress to tie support for the $7 billion project to a payroll tax extension and insisted a final decision would follow a “rigorous” review process apart from politics.

    “Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut, I will reject,” Obama said, responding to the move by Republican House Speaker John Boehner to link the pipeline to the middle class tax cut Obama has been campaigning for.

  26. Blocking pipelines to B.C. would entail loss of billions: study

    Carrie Tait
    Calgary – Globe and Mail Update
    Last updated Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 7:43PM EST

    Canada will forgo billions of dollars in gross domestic product and government revenue if oil companies are unable to access markets off the Pacific coast, according to a new study.

    Moving Canadian heavy oil to the West Coast, where it can be shipped to markets in California and Asia, could add up to $131-billion (U.S) to Canada’s GDP between 2016 and 2030, according to a new study prepared by researchers at the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. This translates to $27-billion in federal, provincial and municipal tax receipts, the academics calculated.

  27. Ellis Ross, the elected chief of the Haisla Nation, hasn’t come lightly to his view of Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

    The thoughtful leader of the 700-member community on the shore of Douglas Channel has immersed himself in the study of energy markets, risk of spills, and how the energy sector tends to behave when accidents occur. He has also personally been involved in spill response, in jobs in government and in the private sector.

    His conclusion?

    The pipeline will not be allowed under any condition by the Haisla, the aboriginal group E most R affected by the $5.5-billion project.

    It’s not about anti-fossil fuels ideology, environmentalism or dirty oil, said Mr. Ross, who is no green ally and would look at home in any corporate boardroom.

    It’s because of the oil industry’s past practices and its long history of passing the buck rather than taking responsibility when something goes wrong, the Haisla’s chief councillor said.

    “They can’t guarantee they are not going to spill oil and they are not going to guarantee they can pick it up,” Mr. Ross, 47, said in an interview.

    “Of course these people in Ottawa, Alberta, Saskatchewan, are willing to take the risk because they don’t live here.”

  28. Caving on Keystone: Still a dumb idea

    President Obama must decide by Feb. 21 whether to approve or reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, his hand forced by a Republican rider to the bill that extended the payroll-tax cut. The White House said straight-up that if Republicans forced a quick decision, the president would reject the pipeline permit. But in an election year, nothing is straight-up, so the latest game of conjecture in the chatter-o-sphere is whether Obama will stick to his guns.

    A while back I questioned the wisdom of a “top environmentalist” who spent time with journalist Jeff Goodell gaming out scenarios for how greens might get screwed on Keystone after all. I called the scenario in question “tactically and strategically asinine.”

  29. The pipeline would have carried roughly 150 million tonnes of carbon pollution from the tarsands to the U.S. each year, the equivalent of over 26 million more cars on the road, or nearly eight billion tonnes over the life of the project. Today’s decision is, therefore, an important victory in global efforts to tackle global warming, and a clear signal that further tarsands expansion is the wrong direction for our climate, our water and our land.”

    — Rick Smith, executive director, Environmental Defence, in an e-mail

  30. Enbridge Announces Athabasca Twin Project: Enbridge announced a $1.2 billion plan to twin its pipeline from Kirby Lake near Fort McMurray to the Hardisty crude oil hub. The energy company wants to increase capacity to accommodate the rapid growth of production in the Kirby area and the Athabasca region further north. The addition of 345 km of 91.4-cm pipeline will boost transmission from 570,000 barrels per day (bpd) by 450,000 bpd the potential to increase up to 800,000 bpd. Two new pumps stations will be installed at the Kirby Lake and Bonnyville facilities. The project will boost the local economy, creating 545 person-years of jobs and generating additional revenue for communities along the pipeline from taxes. A regulatory application to the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) is expected by spring of 2012. With approval, construction would begin early in 2014 to begin operation by 2015, reaching full capacity by 2016 (September 13).

  31. Top News
    State Dept House Keystone bill raises legal questions
    Wed, Jan 25 12:01 PM EST

    By Roberta Rampton

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Republican proposal in the House of Representatives that would strip President Barack Obama of his authority to rule on the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline raises “serious” legal questions, a top State Department official said on Wednesday.

    Obama denied TransCanada’s application for the oil pipeline on January 18 because he said there was not enough time for the State Department to review an alternate route that would avoid a sensitive aquifer in Nebraska within a 60-day window set by Congress.

    TransCanada has reapplied for a permit, and Republicans are working on legislation to try to speed its approval for the $7 billion project, which would carry crude from Canada’s oil sands to Texas refineries.

    One bill, proposed by Representative Lee Terry of Nebraska, would give the authority to approve the project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an energy regulator.

  32. Jaime Watt joins Power & Politics host Evan Solomon each week to look at how issues making waves in Ottawa resonate with Canadians.

    Monitoring the House of Commons’ question period, mainstream media and the conversation on social media, Watt and his team at Navigator Ltd. determine which issues gained the most attention in official Ottawa, and then measure how much traction those issues managed to find with Canadians outside the nation’s capital.

    With the House of Commons still on its extended winter break, discussion in Ottawa centred on questions of Liberal leadership around the party’s biennial convention in Ottawa, along with the premiers conference on health care and the Obama administration’s decision not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline application.

  33. Washington’s pipeline war

    The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has become a crucial front in the election-year battle

    President Barack Obama’s denial of a permit for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline has not stopped a shadow battle from unfolding on Capitol Hill over the proposed link from Alberta’s oil sands to the Gulf Coast. Congress is teeming with proposed legislation for and against the pipeline, which has been transformed from a mere infrastructure project into a political litmus test on American energy policy. And while Obama’s decision may have led to some hand-wringing over the state of Canada-U.S. relations, it’s hard to recall another time that a Canadian government cause has garnered as much support and attention in Congress—usually a more challenging arena for Canadian interests given the parochial concerns of lawmakers.

    For Republicans who control the House of Representatives, the pipeline has become Exhibit A in their case against Obama’s energy policy—while for Democrats it has become a way to make common cause with environmentalists. And both pro-pipeline Republicans and anti-pipeline Democrats are littering Congress with bills aimed at keeping the pipeline issue alive for their supporters. It is a phantom fight, because in this bitterly polarized election year there are few bills of any sort that can pass both the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate, and garner the required signature of the President to become law. But that hasn’t stopped either side from using the legislative process to keep the spotlight on the pipeline and the oil sands.

    Indeed, the once-obscure Keystone XL issue has become a staple on the Republican campaign trail and in the press. The loudest salvo from the pro-pipeline forces came on Feb. 16. The House of Representatives passed a transportation funding bill that included a provision that would remove the decision-making power over the pipeline from the State Department and President, and give it to Congress. Currently, the review process for the pipeline is led by State because the pipeline crosses an international border. The White House issued a warning, saying the President would veto the transportation package for a variety of reasons, including the pipeline provision.

  34. White House Applauds Decision to Build Part of Keystone XL Pipeline

    Washington – With President Barack Obama facing fire from Republicans over the rising cost of gasoline, the White House moved quickly Monday to trumpet a Canadian company’s decision to build a section of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to Houston after Obama blocked a longer path last month.

    Press Secretary Jay Carney hailed TransCanada’s announcement and used it to counter Republican criticism that the administration has stifled oil and gas production. He said that the Oklahoma to Texas section of the pipeline would “help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight-year high.”

  35. Zombie pipeline! Senate narrowly kills Keystone XL — for now

    The Senate today voted down legislation that would have paved the way for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline — barely. Eleven Democrats joined 45 Republicans to vote in favor of the project, ignoring lobbying from President Obama himself. But the measure needed 60 votes to move forward, so despite support from the majority, it died.

  36. It’s a good thing that the senate voted down or said no to the Keystone pipeline at least they have the environment at hearth ; Harper is very disappointed .

  37. Efforts to revive Keystone won’t stop, and I don’t think the US senate really has the environment at heart.

    It will be an ongoing struggle to keep Keystone and other pipelines from being built.

  38. Bitter spill: Leaky Keystone’s economic risks would dwarf benefits

    Cornell’s Global Labor Institute issued a big new report [PDF] this morning examining the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the most comprehensive look yet at its economic impact. And it makes clear just how right President Obama was to block this boondoggle: It would make money for a few politically connected oil companies, but at a potentially staggering cost to the American economy.

    For once economists looked at the whole effect of the project. Unlike studies paid for by the TransCanada pipeline company that purported to show thousands of jobs created (a number since walked back to “hundreds” of permanent positions even by company spokespeople), this study asks: What happens when there’s a spill?

    Not if there’s a spill. There’s going to be a spill — the smaller precursor pipeline recently built by TransCanada spilled at least 14 times in its first year of operation, once spewing a geyser of tar-sands oil 60 feet into the air. In fact, the new Cornell report estimates that we can expect 91 significant spills over the next half century from Keystone

  39. Climate Change Disappears from Keystone XL Pipeline Debate

    Mining and using tar sands oil creates more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. But that’s rarely mentioned anymore.

    When President Obama traveled to Cushing, Okla. last week to declare his support for building the southern half of the Keystone XL pipeline, he stressed that the pipeline and other oil infrastructure projects would be done “in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people.”

    But missing from the speech—and from most recent discussions of the controversial project—was any mention of climate change or the greenhouse gas emissions associated with mining Canadian tar sands.

    Climate change was once front and center in the pipeline debate, with federal agencies as well as environmentalists weighing in with their concerns.

    In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency noted in an analysis of the State Department’s draft environmental review of the Keystone XL that a comprehensive evaluation would have to consider the tar sands industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, which the EPA calculated on a well-to-tank basis to be 82 percent greater than conventional crude oil.

  40. Ewart: Federal budget policies no help to oilsands

    You’re not helping, Mr. Prime Minister, you’re hurting.

    Stephen Harper is generally considered a good friend of the oilpatch, but there are times when the prime minister goes too far with his small-government fiscal conservatism and otherwise well-intentioned efforts do more harm than good.

    The latest budget from Harper’s government, for example, fast-tracks environmental reviews for big industrial projects, slashes spending for Environment Canada and cut the entire budget for the respected National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy.

    Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the current environmental review process is threatening the economy.

    Predictably, opposition politicians and environmentalists were apoplectic.

    “Everybody believes Harper is anti-environment and pro oil and gas and he just confirmed it for everybody,” noted one observer.

    Such a comment would be expected from the Green party or the Pembina Institute, but it came from an executive in the oil and gas industry.

    “Laying off a thousand scientists in Environment Canada isn’t how you help the oilsands,” he said.

    There is a reason lawmakers from Europe and the United States are looking to regulate the gasoline refined from oilsands.

  41. Dear Friends,

    I haven’t written you about the Keystone Pipeline for several weeks, because I haven’t known quite what to say. But many things are moving, and here’s how the situation seems to me right now:

    1) TransCanada, as expected, re-applied for a permit last week from the State Department, and just as they said last November — State said they would have an answer sometime in 2013. An open question is whether or not the State Department will do a real review, and aggressively investigate the climate implications of tar sands oil, which they punted on last time.

    Another open question, of course, is whether after the election the President — whomever it may be — could just give the pipeline a green light no matter what. It’s important that between now and then we strenuously and continually emphasize that building this pipeline means more tar sands oil burned, and that the climate change implications of that are unacceptable.

    2) The fossil fuel lobby in Congress keeps trying to approve the pipeline without any review at all. John Boehner et. al. said they won’t approve the new transportation bill without Keystone in it; happily, the Senate conferees, led by California’s Barbara Boxer, have pledged not to put the pipeline back in play just to get a bill. (We’re always a bit wary of Washington pledges, but thanks to the 1,800 folks who called her office to let her know there was real support for her position).

    3) We also found out that the climate-denying, union-busting, radical billionaire Koch Brothers will be among the prime beneficiaries of the pipeline. It was revealed by intrepid investigative reporting that Koch Industries has been masking their investments in the tar sands, while pumping millions into efforts to push this and other pipelines. None of us deny that some union jobs would be created by this pipeline, but it’s now clear that many more will be put under attack as Koch money pours into the coffers of the radicals seeking to destroy both unions and our climate.

    We frankly don’t yet know how this all is going to play out—and it’s frustrating as hell. Leaders in the Senate and the White House have given assurances that they won’t OK the pipeline—the administration even issued a veto threat over the transportation bill if it included Keystone. We’ll see how good those assurances are in the coming weeks, and we’ll let you know if there are politician’s offices we need you to call, email, or occupy.

    Of course the Southern leg of the pipeline is already on its way to being built – something our friends in Texas are doing all they can to fight, even as you read this.

    Meanwhile, science marches on. Dr. James Hansen reiterated the case against tar sands in the New York Times last week, pointing out that the deposits contain “twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history.” If we burn them on top of all the coal and oil and gas we’re already using, “concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era” – a wildly different and likely unlivable earth.

    And politics marches on too. We’re coming to think that it’s at least as important to tackle the fossil fuel industry directly as they try to tackle our win on the Keystone pipeline. Last Thursday Thursday Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would strip $113 billion in subsidies from coal, gas, and oil companies over the next decade. That’s enough money to weatherize more than half the single family and mobile homes in America. We hope you’ll help:

    I don’t know how Keystone is going to come out—but whatever happens, the organizing we manage to do together will have a lot to do with the final result. We’ve learned an awful lot together about how to take on the bad guys. We’ll fight them pipeline by coal mine by fracking well— and surely call on you for more rapid-response actions when the need arises — but we’ve also got to go after the core of their power. That’s what we need to make the next year all about.



  42. Handcuffs, Conventional Wisdom and Dirty Oil: Activism’s Big Win Against the Keystone XL Pipeline

    Session Type(s): Panel

    Starts: Thursday, Jun. 7 10:30 AM

    Ends: Thursday, Jun. 7 11:45 AM

    Room: Ballroom A

    This January, against long odds, the environmental movement dealt a blow to Big Oil, forcing President Obama’s rejection of a presidential permit for the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline—the industry’s marquee project and a conduit to the continent’s biggest “carbon bomb.” The hard-fought campaign united indigenous communities, Nebraska ranchers and Texas landowners, union representatives, youth climate activists, interfaith leaders and grassroots citizen activists and breathed new life into a movement fractured and demoralized after having failed to advance meaningful climate legislation following the election of a Democratic Congress and a new president who promised to lead on clean energy and climate solutions. Panelists will discuss the lessons the environmental, climate and progressive movements can take from the KXL fight and how these movements might build on this success to continue fighting the southern leg of the pipeline expedited by the president and to reclaim our democracy from corporate polluters and gain lasting wins for a safe climate and justice-fueled future.

  43. Obama under pressure to make Keystone decision

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama faces mounting pressure as he embarks on a second term over a decision he had put off during his re-election campaign: whether to approve the $7 billion proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline between the U.S. and Canada.

    On its surface, it’s a choice between the promise of jobs and economic growth and environmental concerns. But it’s also become a proxy for a much broader fight over American energy consumption and climate change, amplified by Superstorm Sandy and the conclusion of an election that was all about the economy.

    Environmental activists and oil producers alike are looking to Obama’s decision as a harbinger of what he’ll do on climate and energy in the next four years. Both sides are holding out hope that, freed from the political constraints of re-election, the president will side with them on this and countless related issues down the road.

    “The broader climate movement is absolutely looking at this administration’s Keystone XL decision as a really significant decision to signal that dirty fuels are not acceptable in the U.S.,” said Danielle Droitsch, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Once content with delays that have so far kept the pipeline from moving forward at full speed, opponents of Keystone XL have launched protests in recent weeks at the White House and in Texas urging Obama to nix the project outright. Meanwhile, support for the pipeline appears to be picking up steam on Capitol Hill

  44. Neb. governor OKs Keystone XL route through state

    LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman approved a new route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Tuesday that avoids the state’s environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.

    Heineman sent a letter to President Barack Obama confirming that he would allow the controversial, Canada-to-Texas pipeline to proceed through his state.

    The project has faced some of its strongest resistance in Nebraska from a coalition of landowners and environmental groups who say it would contaminate the Ogallala aquifer, a massive groundwater supply.

  45. How the Keystone XL Pipeline Has Become Too Big to Approve

    The past few weeks have brought some surprising developments and contradictions in the Keystone XL pipeline saga. Former Vice-President Al Gore told Canada’s The Globe and Mail that he wished President Obama would cancel the pipeline project. Current Vice-President Joe Biden casually told an activist that he opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, although he’s “in the minority” (echoing his recent gay marriage support ahead of the official change of position by the White House). On Earth Day, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency criticized Obama’s State Department over the environmental impact review of the Keystone XL pipeline, citing “environmental objections.” And finally, an unnamed U.S. official told Reuters that the president now plans to delay his decision on the pipeline even longer — possibly until 2014. What is going on here? How did a pipeline that was supposed to win approval two years ago become such a contested topic among close allies?

  46. “President Obama is a master of symbolism and is certainly highly attuned to the growing meaning behind the Keystone XL battle. With this pipeline, he faces a decision about the economic future of America with outsized symbolic significance: will we go further down the old road of the oil economy — no matter how dirty, dangerous or destructive — or will we take a bold turn toward building a new economy based on low-impact, renewable, domestic energy? The president does not want to make this choice, even symbolically. He knows that approving the pipeline would be wrong for the country and for the planet. But doing the right thing would alienate the most powerful industry in the world and disrupt the very fabric of our oil-based economy. So he drags his feet.”

  47. Lines in the Sand
    by Elizabeth Kolbert

    If the arguments in favor of Keystone are persuasive, those against it are even stronger. Tar-sands oil is not really oil, at least not in the conventional sense of the word. It starts out as semi-solid and has to be either mined or literally melted out of the ground. In either case, the process requires energy, which is provided by burning fossil fuels. The result is that, for every barrel of tar-sands oil that’s extracted, significantly more carbon dioxide enters the air than for every barrel of ordinary crude—between twelve and twenty-three per cent more.

    Alberta’s tar sands contain an estimated 1.7 trillion barrels of oil. Assuming that only a tenth of that is recoverable, it’s still enough to generate something like twenty-two billion metric tons of carbon. There are, it should be noted, plenty of other ways to produce twenty-two billion metric tons of carbon. Consuming about a seventh of the world’s remaining accessible reserves of conventional oil would do it, as would combusting even a small fraction of the world’s remaining coal deposits. Which is just the point.

    Were we to burn through all known fossil-fuel reserves, the results would be unimaginably bleak: major cities would be flooded out, a large portion of the world’s arable land would be transformed into deserts, and the oceans would be turned into liquid dead zones. If we take the future at all seriously, which is to say as a time period that someone is going to have to live in, then we need to leave a big percentage of the planet’s coal and oil and natural gas in the ground. These basic facts have been established for decades, and every President since George Bush senior has vowed to do something to avert catastrophe. The numbers from Mauna Loa show that they have failed.

    In rejecting Keystone, President Obama would not solve the underlying problem, which, as pipeline proponents correctly point out, is consumption. Nor would he halt exploitation of the tar sands. But he would put a brake on the process. After all, if getting tar-sands oil to China were easy, the Canadians wouldn’t be applying so much pressure on the White House. Once Keystone is built, there will be no putting the tar back in the sands. The pipeline isn’t inevitable, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s just another step on the march to disaster.

  48. Harper offers Obama climate plan to win Keystone approval

    Sources say PM willing to accept emissions reduction targets proposed by the U.S.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama formally proposing “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector,” if that is what’s needed to gain approval of the Keystone XL pipeline through America’s heartland, CBC News has learned.

    Sources told CBC News the prime minister is willing to accept targets proposed by the United States for reducing the climate-changing emissions and is prepared to work in concert with Obama to provide whatever political cover he needs to approve the project.

  49. The prospects dimmed for the Keystone XL pipeline ever seeing the light of day, with a significant development Tuesday in the years-long debate over the Canada-to-Texas oil project.

    The cause: Hillary Clinton.

    The current frontrunner in most U.S. presidential election polls made the long-awaited announcement about where she stands on the project.

    Her verdict: “I oppose it,” Clinton told a town-hall-style meeting in Iowa.

    “I oppose it because I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change.”

  50. After four decades in senior roles in Canada’s oil and gas industry, including as CEO of TransCanada Corp. and then of Talisman Energy Inc., Hal Kvisle takes the long view. He proposed the Keystone XL pipeline before retiring from TransCanada, and he isn’t overly concerned about oilsands activism forever standing in Alberta’s way, because he believes the noise will eventually subside and logic will prevail.

    “When the dust settles, in Western Canada we will have suffered for 15 years because of this irrational delay process around Keystone XL. But eventually that pipeline is going to be built,” he said. “It connects the world’s largest source of stable crude oil, with the biggest refining market in the world, and traverses the most benign pipeline territory I have ever seen.”

    Kvisle has seen all this cost slashing, restructuring, and consolidation before: It is, he said, no different from what happened in past oil busts and is a useful and healthy process. The sector will be a stronger competitor when the cycle turns, he said.

    “When prices were US$110 a barrel, I wasn’t an optimist,” Kvisle said. “In circumstances like this, one should shift from being neutral to being a little optimistic. We should have been pessimistic a year ago, but that ship has sailed.”

  51. Keystone XL oil pipeline in doubt as U.S. asked to pause review

    The Canadian company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on Monday asked the U.S. government to suspend review of the $8 billion project that sparked a political war between environmentalists and the oil industry, a move that could put its fate in the hands of the next U.S. president.

    TransCanada Corp’s (TRP.TO) move was seen by many as an attempt to avert a rejection from an increasingly environmentally focused President Barack Obama and postpone the decision until after the November 2016 presidential election.

    Asked if TransCanada was asking for a delay because of concerns Obama may block the pipeline, TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said the company was not going to speculate on what the decision may be or when it may come.

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