11 November 2011

This is What Victory Looks Like

The Obama Administration has put off a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until immediately after the 2012 election.  At that point a newly elected Republican president will be able to quickly approve it or President Obama can do the same without concern for an upcoming election.

Bill McKibben, leader of the pipeline opposition, writes:
[T]he 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.
Kill the project?  Here is what the State Department actually says (emphasis added):
Since 2008, the Department has been conducting a transparent, thorough and rigorous review of TransCanada’s application for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project. As a result of this process, particularly given the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department has determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska.
A revised pipeline routing around the Sand Hills (where few people live anyway) will easily deal with this issue and fulfill the State Department's re-review. In calling for the delay, Obama has deftly turned opposition from among his base into a key asset. If he loses the election he can always blame his base for not doing enough and if he wins, he will have the mandate to do what is in the best interest of the country, not just his base.  Almost Clintonesque in its political brilliance and simplicity.

To wit -- McKibben now says:
The President deserves thanks for making this call -- it’s not easy in the face of the fossil fuel industry and its endless reserves of cash.
And follows it up with an empty threat that perhaps reveals more than intended:
Some in our movement will say that this decision is just politics as usual: that the President wants us off the streets -- and off his front lawn -- until after the election, at which point the administration can approve the pipeline, alienating its supporters without electoral consequence. The president should know that If this pipeline proposal somehow reemerges from the review process we will use every tool at our disposal to keep it from ever being built; if there’s a lesson of the last few months, both in our work and in the Occupy encampments around the world, it’s that sometimes we have to put our bodies on the line.
Let's return to this February, 2013 and see if "victory" still smells as sweet -- when plans re-emerge for crude oil flowing south, regardless of who wins the election.