As part of last year's payroll-tax deal, congressional Republicans squeezed a seemingly unrelated promise out of President Obama: Instead of punting until after the 2012 election, he'd have to decide by Feb. 21 whether to allow TransCanada to build an oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. On Wednesday, Obama made his decision, denying TransCanada's permit request — at least for now. The State Department notes that TransCanada can still reapply for a permit, and the company says it will try again. But in the meantime, the political fallout was swift and immediate. Here, some winners and losers from the rejected Keystone project:
"Environmental activists deserve to take a bow" for the (at least temporary) death of Keystone XL, says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. They successfully increased "visibility of the issue, and the pressure no doubt affected White House" thinking on the pipeline. "Denying this one permit isn't going to halt climate change," says Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns, and Money. But keeping environmentally awful tar-sands crude from flowing through, and spilling into, the U.S. Midwest is "a pretty big victory for those trying to move us to a cleaner energy future."
Obama's rejection of the Keystone pipeline "is being greeted with glee by Republicans" and their probable 2012 presidential nominee, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. And rightly so: Romney immediately recognized the "political gift" Obama had given him, accusing the president of robbing America of potential jobs and confusing "the national interest with his own interest in pleasing the environmentalists in his political base." You can bet that Romney will "make the Keystone pipeline a centerpiece of his general-election campaign," says Jonathan Chait at New York.
The Keystone rejection was "politically beneficial to all parties involved," including Obama, say Glenn Thrush and Darren Samuelsohn at Politico. In fact, except for angering labor unions, this is "no-brainer election-year politics" for the president. The pipeline was as much a cause celebre for deep-pocketed environmentalists as it was for pro-pipeline Republicans, and only one of those groups cuts Obama checks. Besides, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, in punting the decision until after the election, Obama essentially got what he wanted in the first place, House GOP be damned.
Republicans rightly point out that Keystone would have resulted "in job gains during a sluggish economic recovery" — the key issue in the election, says The Washington Post in an editorial. And it has to sting that Obama's own jobs council just recommended building oil pipelines. "The Obama team knew that the issue had the potential to be a loser no matter how it was decided," says Alex Koppelman at The New Yorker. "Congressional Republicans aren't stupid" to have forced his hand.
"There have been very few days in the last two decades when the scientists have been smiling and Big Oil scowling," but this is one of them, says Bill McKibben at The Daily Beast. Building a "leaky pipeline" through the Midwest that would raise gas prices there, for fuel that would be shipped overseas, only makes sense for one reason: "To make even more money for the richest industry on earth." Killing Keystone won't stop climate change, "but it does stop Big Oil's winning streak, and that's a hopeful sign."
Obama's decision "will probably be ugly for U.S.-Canada relations," says Michael Levi at The Washington Post. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had made the pipeline a top priority, and he even invoked Iran's oil blockade threat to change Obama's mind. After the decision, Canada started threatening to ship their tar sands exports to China. "Certainly," David Pumphrey at the Center for Strategic and International Studies tells Bloomberg, this "introduces new uncertainties into the economic relationship" between the U.S. and Canada.