President Obama rejects the Keystone XL Pipeline, with an assist from Nebraska

KeystoneLast week, TransCanada asked the U.S. State Department to delay making a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, a calculated political move to take the decision out of the hands of President Obama and to take their chances with the next president of the United States. TransCanada asks US to pause review of Keystone pipeline project. “The Canadian energy giant asked the U.S. State Department to pause its review of the presidential permit application while it seeks approval from Nebraska officials for a preferred route through the state. That process could take up to 12 months.”

This week, the U.S. State Department rejected the request. State Dept. rejects TransCanada request for Keystone delay.

Today, President Obama announced his long anticipated decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Statement by the President on the Keystone XL Pipeline:

Several years ago, the State Department began a review process for the proposed construction of a pipeline that would carry Canadian crude oil through our heartland to ports in the Gulf of Mexico and out into the world market.

This morning, Secretary Kerry informed me that, after extensive public outreach and consultation with other Cabinet agencies, the State Department has decided that the Keystone XL Pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States. I agree with that decision.

This morning, I also had the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada. And while he expressed his disappointment, given Canada’s position on this issue, we both agreed that our close friendship on a whole range of issues, including energy and climate change, should provide the basis for even closer coordination between our countries going forward. And in the coming weeks, senior members of my team will be engaging with theirs in order to help deepen that cooperation.

Now, for years, the Keystone Pipeline has occupied what I, frankly, consider an overinflated role in our political discourse. It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter. And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.

To illustrate this, let me briefly comment on some of the reasons why the State Department rejected this pipeline.

First: The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy. So if Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it. If they want to do it, what we should be doing is passing a bipartisan infrastructure plan that, in the short term, could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year as the pipeline would, and in the long run would benefit our economy and our workers for decades to come.

Our businesses created 268,000 new jobs last month. They’ve created 13.5 million new jobs over the past 68 straight months — the longest streak on record. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent. This Congress should pass a serious infrastructure plan, and keep those jobs coming. That would make a difference. The pipeline would not have made a serious impact on those numbers and on the American people’s prospects for the future.

Second: The pipeline would not lower gas prices for American consumers. In fact, gas prices have already been falling — steadily. The national average gas price is down about 77 cents over a year ago. It’s down a dollar over two years ago. It’s down $1.27 over three years ago. Today, in 41 states, drivers can find at least one gas station selling gas for less than two bucks a gallon. So while our politics have been consumed by a debate over whether or not this pipeline would create jobs and lower gas prices, we’ve gone ahead and created jobs and lowered gas prices.

Third: Shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security. What has increased America’s energy security is our strategy over the past several years to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels from unstable parts of the world. Three years ago, I set a goal to cut our oil imports in half by 2020. Between producing more oil here at home, and using less oil throughout our economy, we met that goal last year — five years early. In fact, for the first time in two decades, the United States of America now produces more oil than we buy from other countries.

Now, the truth is, the United States will continue to rely on oil and gas as we transition — as we must transition — to a clean energy economy. That transition will take some time. But it’s also going more quickly than many anticipated. Think about it. Since I took office, we’ve doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas by 2025; tripled the power we generate from the wind; multiplied the power we generate from the sun 20 times over. Our biggest and most successful businesses are going all-in on clean energy. And thanks in part to the investments we’ve made, there are already parts of America where clean power from the wind or the sun is finally cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.

The point is the old rules said we couldn’t promote economic growth and protect our environment at the same time. The old rules said we couldn’t transition to clean energy without squeezing businesses and consumers. But this is America, and we have come up with new ways and new technologies to break down the old rules, so that today, homegrown American energy is booming, energy prices are falling, and over the past decade, even as our economy has continued to grow, America has cut our total carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Today, the United States of America is leading on climate change with our investments in clean energy and energy efficiency. America is leading on climate change with new rules on power plants that will protect our air so that our kids can breathe. America is leading on climate change by working with other big emitters like China to encourage and announce new commitments to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. In part because of that American leadership, more than 150 nations representing nearly 90 percent of global emissions have put forward plans to cut pollution.

America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change. And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership. And that’s the biggest risk we face — not acting.

Today, we’re continuing to lead by example. Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.

As long as I’m President of the United States, America is going to hold ourselves to the same high standards to which we hold the rest of the world. And three weeks from now, I look forward to joining my fellow world leaders in Paris, where we’ve got to come together around an ambitious framework to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.

If we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change before it’s too late, the time to act is now. Not later. Not someday. Right here, right now. And I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish together. I’m optimistic because our own country proves, every day — one step at a time — that not only do we have the power to combat this threat, we can do it while creating new jobs, while growing our economy, while saving money, while helping consumers, and most of all, leaving our kids a cleaner, safer planet at the same time.

That’s what our own ingenuity and action can do. That’s what we can accomplish. And America is prepared to show the rest of the world the way forward.

For those of you keeping score at home, Hillary Clinton announced her opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline last month. Hillary Clinton explains her Keystone XL opposition decision. Bernie Sanders opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline. Bernie Sanders Opposes Tar Sands Pipeline. Martin O’Malley applauded President Obama’s decision today. Martin O’Malley Statement in Response to President Obama Rejecting Keystone Pipeline.

As you would expect, the “drill baby drill till you spill” crowd in the GOP (Greed, Oil, Pollution) are apoplectic today as POLITICO Tiger Beat on The Potomac reports. Republicans rip Obama’s Keystone decision.

One of the fiercest critics of the Keystone XL Pipeline has been Charles Pierce of Esquire. Charlie writes today, The Keystone Pipeline and the Defeat of Faceless Corporate Power:

For the historical moment, it appears, there will be no continent-spanning death funnel bringing the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel from the environmental hellspout of northern Alberta down through the most arable farmland in the world to the refineries of the Gulf Coast, thence to the world. The president has decided this will not be the case. ​

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Our old friend, the Keystone XL pipeline, continent-spanning death funnel and Republican fetish object, is off the twig. It’s kicked the bucket, rung down the curtain, and joined the bleeding choir invisi-bule. This is a dead parrot.

You could see it coming over the last month—when Canadian elections went against the death funnel’s primary political supporters, both nationally and in Alberta. You could see it when TransCanada, the multinational corporation seeking to build the death funnel, begged the State Department for a reprieve that would have pushed the decision to approve the tunnel past the end of the current president’s term. You could see it this week, when the State Department refused to honor that request. But the real story of what happened on Friday begins years ago, and it begins with ordinary people, and it is a remarkable story of actual populism in action.

The real story involves an alliance between liberal environmentalists and conservative farmers, between Native Americans and white people, between Democrats and Republicans. The real story involves a grassroots victory for a lot of people you’ve never heard of who pushed and yelled the national government into reversing a project that seemed almost unstoppable five years ago. The real story involves a defeat for faceless corporate power, and for the money that is poisoning our politics at all levels, and for the corrupt alliance between corporate power and poisoned politics that is so much of our national life these days.

Kxl_cropart_11
Kestone XL Opponents carved a massive 80-acre crop drawing in a Nebraska cornfield that sits directly in the path of the proposed project. Farmer Art Tanderup, who owns the land, drove the tractor that created the message based on a design.

The president moved because people moved him. The president moved because landowners in Nebraska bridled at the bullying of a foreign corporation, against the misuse of eminent domain by an unaccountable Canadian corporation. The president moved because people moved him. The president moved because people like Bill McKibben turned the pipeline – and the planet-killing goop it was designed to carry – into a symbol for the ongoing and worsening climate crisis, and they did such a good job of it that the president now sees a vigorous response to the crisis as an essential part of his legacy. This is a victory that began in farmhouse kitchens and local coffee shops. This is a victory that began on reservations and in small local law offices. This is a victory that began with a thousand conversations about how things just didn’t feel right, and about what people thought they could do about it.

“I feel proud,” said Jane Fleming Kleeb, the woman who bulldogged the ground-level effort against the death-funnel in Nebraska. “All I can think of is all the political operatives who called me and told me to give it up, that we never could beat this company, that we should take the little victories we won and call it a day.”

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[T]his is the way it’s supposed to work, a truly bipartisan populist project that, through sheer indomitability, beat the power of a multinational behemoth and turned an entire administration around, and on an issue that ultimately affects us all. In the early days of the administration, the president’s people were fond of telling progressives about the possibly apocryphal quote attributed to Franklin Roosevelt when A. Philip Randolph approached him on civil rights: “Now make me do it.” This is how that works.

* * *

Shortly after the president spoke, I got a call from my friend Randy Thompson, whose lovely farm in Humphrey, Nebraska, was targeted by TransCanada as part of the death-funnel’s route, and who worked harder than anyone against the pipeline simply because he was fed up with being pushed around.

“It’s unbelievable that we were able to do this,” Thompson said. “It’s like watching the biggest bully on the school grounds getting his nose bloodied. It’s very gratifying.”

They did this for all of us. Sometimes, the system works. Nobody should forget that.

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