We’ll never know the answer to that question.
What we do know is that the president seemed pretty happy with himself Friday when he finally took a knee holding the political football he’d seemingly been playing keep-away with since his first term began.
Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL came just two days after the Canadians swore in liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau — who actually voiced support for the pipeline project — and five days after TransCanada asked the U.S. State Department to suspend its review of the pipeline project because of pending litigation in Nebraska, where it had asked the Public Service Commission to approve a new route through the state.
Obama was right that Keystone XL occupied “an over-inflated role in our political discourse.” But the problem is he allowed Republicans, and some Democrats, to endlessly pump up the 800,000 barrel-per-day pipeline’s role in North American energy infrastructure, and largely ignored his own State Department’s report that said the pipeline would have little significant impact on the environment.
He’s right that the pipeline was no “silver bullet for the economy.” But it wasn’t going to hurt it either. Take, for example, the Montana cities of Circle and Baker, where both temporary and permanent jobs would have been created by the pipeline’s installation and a railroad link to a pipeline coming out of North Dakota’s Bakken oilfields.
In his speech, Obama spoke at great length about his push for green energy development in the U.S., pointing out wind and solar power advances. While it’s true that the nation is making great strides in both sectors, those energy resources won’t happen just because he says they will. Ask NextEra Energy Resources how its push to get landowners to agree to an 87-turbine wind farm in southwest North Dakota is going.
Elected officials in North Dakota and Montana — none of whom were even in office when the Keystone XL debate began — didn’t hold back in their frustrations with the president.
Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines called the decision “an affront to the American people.” Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said Obama’s rejection “consistent with his extreme environmental anti-growth, anti-American jobs agenda.”
North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven said it was “ironic” that Obama acted so quickly to reject Keystone XL after “postponing the jobs, revenues and other benefits that would result from the project.” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., bucked Obama’s green energy sentiments and called Keystone XL “just one small piece of a much larger energy strategy.”
Perhaps the most telling number that emerged last week in the Keystone XL debate was that the Association of Oil Pipe Lines reported to the National Post in Toronto that the U.S. has installed more than 12,000 miles of oil pipelines — the equivalent of 10 Keystone XLs — since 2010.
So, if we’re installing that many pipelines anyway, why did we put this one on such a pedestal?
Because when it comes to energy and the environment, the president believes his answer is the only correct one. And Keystone XL was his way of punctuating that.