It’s getting a little crowded out here in the vanguard.
Back in April, I read the tea leaves and chicken entrails and came to the most logical conclusion: President Obama will reject the Keystone XL pipeline. At the time, it seemed like kind of a big deal. The president had recently vetoed Congress’s effort to force him to approve the pipeline, just as he had promised to do, but only because it was an attempt to short-circuit the State Department’s review process and usurp the president’s authority to decide such matters. TransCanada was continuing its full-court press, trying to convince everyone that everything was going fine….
Since then, the news has only gotten worse for pipeline supporters. As a result, more interested parties are coming forward to say they’ve reached the same conclusion. We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.Dak.) cited unnamed sources close to the decision-making process told him KXL was a no-go. Last week, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chair of the Senate Energy Committee, said she also believes the pipeline will not be approved. Her words to Bloomberg News were clear and succinct: “I don’t see a scenario where the president would sign off on Keystone.”
In the four months since I made my prediction, the clues that led Sen. Murkowski to her conclusion have been consistent, and consistently bad for TransCanada. The New Democratic Party’s astounding victory in Alberta’s elections meant that Big Oil would no longer have the provincial government acting as its handmaiden. Market forces, driving the price of oil down and the cost of tar sands processing up, colluded to make KXL a dead letter, according to some industry analysts. Add to that an increase in corporate taxes in Alberta, and suddenly the tar sands industry is curling up into a defensive ball and waiting for the troubles to pass.
That’s just the nuts-and-bolts issue. The farther reaching issues of global warming and efforts to stop it may provide an even steeper hill to climb.
Last week, the White House unveiled the president’s plan to tackle carbon emissions directly. It’s a bold plan that requires every state to reduce its carbon emissions, and it quickly drew criticism from states that produce coal and/or rely heavily on it for energy. But lest anyone claim that this is an example of an anti-business Democrat throwing commerce under the bus to placate the environmental lobby, at least 13 major corporations have signed on in support– not alternative energy companies that stand to benefit from a move away from coal, but industry leaders like WalMart, Google, Coca-Cola, Apple and Goldman Sachs.
This should not have come as a surprise to anybody, as the administration has been moving briskly in the direction of carbon reduction. From the unprecedented agreement with China to the groundbreaking consensus reached at the G7 conference, all of the White House’s international diplomacy efforts on the environment have pushed an agenda that accepts global warming as an international crisis, and takes appropriate steps to confront it.
Add to that a Department of Energy analysis that concludes tar sands is every bit as filthy an energy source as its critics said it was, a disastrous pipeline rupture on the California coast, and a nine-day permit review process in South Dakota that highlighted the extreme risks that TransCanada’s shoddy workmanship poses to the nation’s heartland… well, you’re not going to find too many people who aren’t getting paid for the effort saying the pipeline is just the best thing for the American people. (Charles P. Pierce of Esquire, a cantankerous curmudgeon on the KXL question (meant in the most appreciative way), has a bit of blow-by-blow reporting on the South Dakota hearings, and it gives KXL opponents yet another reason to believe the pipeline is headed for the dustbin of history.)
There are, of course, those trying to wave Very Scary Things about to try to convince you that rejecting Keystone XL is going to wreak havoc on America. Several Canadian outlets say TransCanada has accepted that the KXL application will be rejected, but they’re going to make the rejection costly to the U.S.
For instance, there’s the threat the TransCanada might sue the U.S. government under NAFTA provisions to recoup the cost of pipe that it purchased in anticipation of getting the approval it’s been seeking for more than six years. Even the Calgary Herald, a newspaper from the heart of Canada’s oil country, says that’s a longshot at best. It may also simply file another permit application, keeping the issue hot in the U.S. presidential election.
There’s also the threat– if you could call it that– that rejecting KXL would sour U.S.-Canadian relations. That might very well be true. But on the other hand, so what? If your neighbor starts throwing his garbage over your back fence to save money on waste disposal, do you care if he thinks you’re a jerk when you tell him to knock it off?
And that question gets straight to the heart of the matter, right where it has always been. Why is it up to Americans to surrender their property, put their land and water at risk, endanger their environment and their children’s health in perpetuity, for the profit of a Canadian corporation, so that Canadian oil producers can sell their wares on the global market? Opponents of Keystone XL have said it all along, and it remains as true now as when it was first uttered: Keystone XL is all risk and no reward for the American people.
The picture is becoming ever-clearer that President Obama feels the same way.