Obama said the Keystone XL pipeline would only be approved if it won't increase greenhouse gas emissions. That cheered some foes of the project, but others see the president finding a way to say yes.
The politically charged issue has hung over the Obama administration for years, as environmentalists have competed with energy interests and some labor unions for the president’s ear and public opinion. If approved by the State Department – and ultimately by the president – the pipeline would carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, 1,200 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.
“Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” Mr. Obama said in a major speech on climate change at Georgetown University. “The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”
Obama did not provide specifics on how the environmental impact of the pipeline would be measured. A final decision on Keystone XL is not expected until later this year or early next year. Critics have charged that drilling in tar sands, and turning the extracted bitumen into crude oil, causes significant air and water pollution.
Obama has long described his energy policy as “all of the above” – leading many observers to conclude that he would eventually approve the pipeline, balanced with more renewable energy and stricter limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired plants.
But some environmentalists cheered Obama’s remarks yesterday, pointing to studies that show the pipeline would produce higher emissions, leading them to conclude that the president will ultimately reject Keystone XL. Others weren’t so sure, suggesting his language was sufficiently vague to leave him wiggle room to approve the project.
Bill McKibben, a leading voice among environmentalists and founder of the activist group 350.org, reacted positively.