Don’t Misread the Inaugural Address

Pipeline opponents came out of the gate at a sprint this week, claiming premature victory after President Obama’s inaugural address.  With his commitment to address climate change, opponents interpreted his message as a precursor to a rejection of Keystone XL.  Yet the facts point to a different outcome.  Approving Keystone XL will not jeopardize the president’s pledge to address climate change and it will certainly play an important role in developing our diverse energy portfolio.  Here are a few key points to consider:

1)      The inaugural address did not diverge from previous energy policy

There is no evidence in the speech to suggest a divergent path from his previous statements on energy policy. President Obama has actually remained quite consistent in his pledge to promote sustainable and secure energy over the long-term.  His “all of the above” energy strategy was tempered with his belief that there are “no quick fixes,” and his climate change statement described a “long and sometimes difficult” path to sustainable energy. Reading between the lines, President Obama appears committed to weighing the benefits of a variety of energy sources, including Canadian oil sands, to achieve energy security.

2)      Keystone XL approval is compatible with environmental stewardship

Keystone XL has gone through the longest pipeline approval process in U.S. history, accompanied by extensive environmental review from state and federal departments.  Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman approved the route of this state of the art pipeline in large part because it would exceed safety standards discussed throughout the NE route review. The governor’s decision complements the State Department’s earlier conclusion that “the pipeline poses minimal environmental risk to soil, wetlands, water resources, vegetation, fish, and wildlife, and creates few greenhouse-gas emissions.”

3)      Keystone XL will not increase U.S. GHG emissions

Oil sands crude is similar to other heavy crudes currently processed at our technologically advanced Gulf Coast refineries. Crude from Canadian oil sands is simply replacing heavy crude oil we used to import from Venezuela and Mexico.    The State Department came to the conclusion in its supplemental environmental impact statement that Keystone XL would not result in a “substantive contribution to the U.S. or global emissions.” Considering the project in a broader environmental lens, the Washington Post editorial board recently injected some refreshing logic into the debate when it pointed out that an example of how to make an actual impact is the greater fuel efficiency standards that EPA has already adopted rather than “blocking a pipeline here or there” to effectively reduce GHG emissions.

4)      Americans support the Keystone XL

A bipartisan group of 53 U.S. Senators  wrote to President Obama this week urging him to “finish expeditiously the review process and approve the pipeline.”  Support is also found from editorial boards across the country, including the Washington Post, Bloomberg and Dallas Morning News,  who have all spoken out in favor of the project.  But perhaps most importantly, average Americans want President Obama to approve the pipeline with a recent poll indicating that 59 percent of Americans support the project.

Despite claims from NGOs with an anti-oil sands agenda, approving Keystone XL is not incompatible with the president’s climate change policies.  If President Obama cuts through the white noise of opposition, he will be better able to hear the majority of Americans who want the project to move forward, bringing with it jobs, economic benefits and energy security.

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