Yes, elections do have consequences, and those associated with a likely continuation of disastrous Obama administration energy policies will be huge….  A clear test will be his decision to approve or continue to block permitting of the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline…a development that can deliver more than 830,000 barrels of crude from Canada’s oil sands to American refineries daily.

The U.S. State Department has said that it will rule upon the $5.3 billion Canada-to-Nebraska project by the end of March, assuming that the State of Nebraska approves a new route that bypasses an environmentally sensitive region. Yet opposing environmental groups are expected to press for public hearings on the department’s new environmental impact statement and push for an EPA review which may well delay that schedule. An eventual green light start-up is unlikely to occur before late 2015. This weighs heavily upon costs to the Alberta government, which garners about a third of its revenue from the oil industry.

Hope springs eternal. A bipartisan group of nine Republican and nine Democrat senators led by chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (D-Montana), and John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), are asking to proceed with the project. Accordingly, they issued a letter last October stating: “Setting politics aside, nothing has changed about the thousands of jobs that Keystone XL will create. Nothing has changed about the security to be gained from using more fuel produced at hope and by a close and stable ally, And nothing has changed about the need for America to remain a place where businesses can still build things.”

These sentiments are shared by some powerful Obama allies… unions. As former head of the AFL-CIO Buildings and Construction Trades Department, Mark Ayres, wrote in the Huffington Post: “For America’s skilled-craft construction professionals, any discussion of the Keystone XL project begins and ends with one word; JOBS. The Keystone Pipeline represents the prospect for 20,000 immediate jobs, and as many as 500,000 indirect jobs via a strong economic multiplier effect.”

Ayres went on to say: “Meanwhile, the opponents of Keystone are descending upon Washington, DC for another demonstration against this job-creating initiative. The unfortunate aspect of their opposition is that they are trying to kill the Keystone project by presenting the tired old false choice of energy vs. the environment.”

He’s very right about that. Hundreds of “environmentalists” representing a coalition including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth who were hysterical over the prospect that Keystone will accelerate “climate change”, marched around the White House carrying a 500-foot-long pipeline replica. A spokesperson claimed that “Keystone XL is still a crazy idea, a giant straw into the second-biggest pool of carbon.”

Yet absolutely all energy options are facing environmental challenges… not just “dirty” coal, oil and natural gas …or those “hazardous” nuclear plants. Hydroelectric dams are under assault for killing fish, biomass burning produces greenhouse gases just as fossils do, and geothermal power releases toxic ground and water contaminates. Wind turbines slaughter birds and bats, solar power disrupts fragile desert ecosystems.

Wind and solar power also require huge amounts of land and expansive transmission lines to deliver electricity from remote sites. For example, an 85-mile Green Path North Transmission Line planned to carry green power to Los Angeles was cancelled in 2010 due to environmental opposition. As Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy Group, a wind farm developer observed, “We are starting to see all renewable energy projects, no matter how well planned, are being questioned.”

A 2011 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report titled “Project/No Project” found 140 renewable projects that had stalled, stopped, or been outright killed due to “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) environmental activism and a system that allows limitless challenges by opponents. The study concluded that it is just as difficult to build a wind farm in the U.S. as it is to build a coal-fired plant, with about 45% of all challenged projects being “renewable energy”. This is accomplished by a variety of strategies, including organizing local opposition, changing zoning laws, preventing permits, filing lawsuits, and using other long delay mechanisms, effectively bleeding projects dry of their financing….

Environmental lobby threats to Obama’s reelection coffers and turnout over Keystone XL were anything but subtle…. The first arguments against the pipeline emphasized that it will endanger the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska and other states along the proposed route. This charge largely ignored the fact that 50,000 miles of pipeline already crisscrosses the U.S., about half of which is in the Ogallala region, using technology that has proven to be safe.

On the other side of Obama’s Democratic base, any direct pipeline veto would have brought wrath from unions who have been backing the project. Included are not only the Building & Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, but also the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Teamsters, the Labors’ International Union, and the United Association of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters for the U.S. and Canada. They want jobs, and so do other Americans who depend upon oil-fueled industries.

Facing a contentious decision that would split his political base, the president deftly drew upon his U.S. Senate experience. Essentially, he voted “present”, delaying and perhaps killing the pipeline project until after the election. Kicking the can down the road, he said: “The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available sciences and the voices of the American people. At the same time, my administration will build on the unprecedented progress we’ve made towards strengthening our nation’s energy security, from responsibly expanding domestic oil and gas production to nearly doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, to continued progress in development of a clean energy economy.”

The president’s decision caught the many project developers and supporters off guard. Keystone XL had already invested $1.7 billion in steel pipe along with millions more to obtain right-of-way easements. Based upon multivolume environmental impact statements, the State Department, which has jurisdiction over the project since it crosses U.S. borders, had previously determined that it would have “no significant impacts”. State had been expected to offer its approval by the end of this year. That self-imposed timetable provoked activists to ratchet up even more pressure upon the administration to reject it.

Obama’s delay may lead developers to kill the pipeline project altogether. Customers who have already signed up to take delivery of oil will lose money, and there will be added expenses to get new permits.  According to TransCanada CEO Russ Girling, if crude delivery can’t begin as scheduled, “Those shippers will only wait so long, and then they will start looking for other markets. Similarly, the refiners can only wait so long for Canadian crude oil to come into their marketplace…. ”

CFACT Advisor Larry Bell  heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston.  He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture.  He is also the author of  Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax.  

Excerpted from Forbes online, December 30, 2012.


  • Larry Bell

    CFACT Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax."