In his weasel-worded decision to block a perfectly harmless pipeline that would have provided America with jobs, energy and hope, President Barack Obama betrayed his country, lied and even welshed on a deal with Congress. I am sorry to say so, but it's true. Let's look at some history to get there.
Not so long ago, this country was in a terrible energy fix. Thanks largely to China and India, world demand for oil was going up while supplies remained limited, meaning prices were soaring as dependence on production in the volatile Middle East grew. However, owing in part to new technology, we found vast new possibilities to obtain oil and gas in the United States, and our neighbors were discovering new resources, too.
Canadian tar sands, it turns out, hold 100 billion barrels of obtainable oil, which is to say, we have Saudi Arabia II sitting right next door. Stretching a pipeline from Canada to Texas refineries is no big deal in a country with 2 million miles of pipeline already. Building it would create thousands of jobs, there could be another 85,000 jobs created once the project has been going for a while and experts note that a pipeline is far cheaper and safer than other modes of transportation, especially shipping it across the ocean.
The Keystone XL pipeline, in short, would assist in a $200 billion bonanza, but some environmentalists were unhappy because this tar-sands oil has a lot of carbon dioxide in it, and, by their calculations, would contribute to global warming. There were swift, decisive answers to their concerns. One was that if we don't use the oil, China will. China then gets all the advantages, and the global-warming risk is still there.
Of course, in a regulatory system that allows no one to sneeze without prior investigations of earthquake dangers, we still had to quadruple-check everything, including the laying of the pipeline itself, and so the State Department and 11 other agencies spent three years and endless scientific effort compiling eight volumes of evidence demonstrating there was nothing to worry about.
Obama had promised a decision by the end of last year, but then, on top of screams from environmental extremists, some Nebraskans complained that a physically impossible tainting of aquifer water might occur as the pipeline crossed their state. Obama was in a tough spot -- there was an election coming up and whatever decision he made would displease either environmental supporters or union supporters. He punted, saying the State Department was going to study a new path for the pipeline, and that this would take at least a year, by which time the election would be over. Political problem solved?
Not quite, because Republican senators said they would agree to a two-month payroll-tax decrease if Obama would move ahead with the decision, and Obama, eager to come back to another argument on a further 10-month extension of the payroll tax and raising taxes on the rich, said that compromise suited him fine. He got it, and we now have a pipeline decision in which he complains he was shoved into an arbitrary deadline for political purposes. That's a lie. He had skipped his original deadline for political purposes, plain and simple.
Because of the overly speedy process, he said, he could not be sure the pipeline was safe -- another lie -- and said we were meanwhile coming up with ways to increase our energy supplies without as much carbon-dioxide peril. That's true, but that still leaves us with energy deficiencies at present while the emissions reductions mean there's less to worry about in any emissions increases from the tar-sands oil.
He also said studies at the State Department would continue and he might have a different decision down the road, which is to say, he is back to where he was -- postponing anything decisive until after the election. That's a fraud, and it's a fraud that leaves this country wounded and bleeding. Presidents aren't supposed to do that.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)