While he hasn’t moved to counter the bad publicity heaped on the pipeline, the president has cut the permitting time for natural gas export facilities. In this way, he is keeping both job creation proponents and environmental protectionists happy, allowing him to vacillate on Keystone without ever having to face the negatives that will come with any decision.
The president’s strategic play — straight out of his Climate Action Plan — runs afoul of the science and economic benefits behind the pipeline, but is a winner when it comes to the politics.
The expansion of natural gas has a greater, more diverse and more widespread economic impact than Keystone XL. Estimates of permanent jobs once the pipeline is up and running are only in the low hundreds.
Expanding domestic natural gas production, on the other hand, is a boost to mining operators, transporters and refiners, and it supports a build‐out of infrastructure along the way — with the money primarily changing hands in the United States. Speeding up natural gas permitting then is a perfect way to quiet the jobs lobby. From an environmental standpoint, the preference for “clean” natural gas over so‐called “dirty” oil from the Canadian tar sands fits perfectly with the president’s continued push for measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But since China annually increases its carbon dioxide emissions by many more times than we could ever hope to reduce ours, the math and science behind the president’s efforts proves them to be ineffective. But this takes a backseat to the appearance of at least “doing something” about climate change.