Today, in a 62-36 vote, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The House passed a similar measure a few weeks ago. These actions come more than 6 years after TransCanada Corp originally submitted its application to the State Department to build a pipeline linking the Alberta oil sands to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Did I say State Department?
Yep, in matters involving the crossing of an international border (in this case the one with Canada) the State Department must make a determination as to whether or not the project is in the “national interest.” Two-thousand, three hundred and twenty-three days later, the ultimate head of the State Department still hasn’t made up his mind.
So Congress has attempted to make the decision for him.
But it probably won’t work.
President Obama has already advertised that he plans on vetoing the measure, because, well, because the State Department already has a procedure in place to handle cross border pipeline projects like this one.
In fact, this procedure has worked flawlessly up until the Keystone XL pipeline. The previous cross-border pipeline that was proposed—the Alberta Clipper in 2007—was approved in just over two years. At the time, the State Department wrote in glowing terms about the project praising it for advancing “strategic interests,” being a “positive economic signal” and adding that “reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are best addressed through each country’s robust domestic policies.”
In the intervening years, Obama has come to view climate change as a matter of utmost urgency and as a defining issue of his legacy as president. And leading environmentalists have planted it in his head that the Keystone XL pipeline is make or break when it comes to climate change.
It is not.
Keystone XL will have virtually no impact on the global climate now or in the future.
But that doesn’t matter any longer. Instead, the pipeline has become a symbol of climate action, a line in the sand that can’t be crossed if you are truly concerned about climate change and the fate of humanity.
I have repeatedly pointed out that it is in President Obama’s best interest to keep the pipeline in limbo. This way, climate change stays front page news. And with a left-leaning press, this means more coverage playing up the pipeline protests and playing down needless government meddling in private economics.
President Obama has asked interested federal agencies to comment on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. These comments are due February 2nd. The State Department will then sift through them and consider them and ponder what to do next.
This is what the President will say when he vetos the bill.
The stalling will continue.
And so will the conversation.