Richard Greene

Obama’s Keystone decision was a gift to Republicans

President Obama has rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, set to run from Hardisty, Alberta, to the Texas Gulf Coast.
President Obama has rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, set to run from Hardisty, Alberta, to the Texas Gulf Coast. AP

Sacrificing economic opportunity, jobs, national security, the environment, energy independence and more for the objective of “global leadership,” President Obama has handed voters another reason to choose a Republican successor for the job he holds.

It couldn’t come too soon.

When I last discussed the Keystone pipeline a year ago, there was hope he’d do the right thing.

His own State Department had finally concluded in what was the most extensive environmental review ever done that there would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed project corridor.

In fact, the report described greater safety and environmental risks from not building the pipeline, as the Canadian oil would still be carried by alternative means such as ocean tankers, rail and trucks.

Among the objectives Obama declared in his latest litany of why he was killing the project was to leave the oil in the ground.

Well, that’s not going to happen. The Canadians are going to sell it to somebody, either here or overseas. China, among others, seems a strong prospect for them.

Whatever effects Obama thought he was going to prevent, real or imagined, will still take place.

Unless, that is, he can convince the leaders of the countries that have the most impact on the global environment to curtail their use of fossil fuels.

In places like China and India, that seems as unlikely as it’s always been. The pursuit of opportunity for prosperity to replace poverty for their people remains the priority.

They may even point out to Obama that top administration officials who work for him in the Department of Energy continue to forecast that nearly 80 percent of the fuels needed to power our country decades into the future will come from under the ground.

All the initiatives to promote clean energy notwithstanding, the reality is that we will continue to rely on the dependable, abundant and affordable resources that are increasingly being produced with less and less environmental impact.

Some have speculated the president’s real motives were to cement his legacy with the environmental community or to pay back friends like billionaire Warren Buffett moving oil across the country with his railroad.

Whatever his reasons, they are not popular with most members of Congress or those they serve.

The Nielsen Co., in a nationwide survey completed just prior to the decision, found only 21 percent of voters opposed to the pipeline project.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma summed it up well: “Opposing Keystone is economically, diplomatically and environmentally irresponsible.”

Organized labor, a stronghold for Democrats, isn’t happy either.

CNN reported that Terry O’Sullivan, the general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, blasted the decision.

“After a seven-year circus of cowardly delay, the president’s decision to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline is just one more indication of an utter disdain and disregard for salt-of-the-earth, middle-class working Americans,” O’Sullivan said.

Whoever emerges among the Republican candidates is going to have a powerful issue to put before the country.

Although she was the senior official of the lead federal agency that concluded fears of environmental harm from the pipeline were not justified, Hillary Clinton supports Obama’s decision.

She will defend her position with the usual rhetoric, and that’s fine. The American people aren’t buying it, so the more she tries to make sense of nonsense, the worse she looks.

Together with the war on coal and other extreme environmental regulations of the Obama era costing jobs and raising electric bills in states that Democrats count on to win the White House, their leader has just played into the hands of the opposition.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.