Keystone XL Pipeline: Obama Caves to Environmentalists

Kowtowing to environmentalists pressures, President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he will not approve the Keystone XL pipeline if it will increase green house gas emissions.

"Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest," the president said in a speech addressing global warming.

"And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution," he said. "The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward."

The Keystone XL pipeline, if built, would "carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day from the tar sands of Alberta down to the Gulf Coast," the Washington Post explains. Building the pipeline would create anywhere from 600,000 to 3.5 million jobs immediately. 

The pipeline has been heralded as an economic recovery project that would bring both jobs and commerce. So what's the hold up?

In short: environmentalists. 

Prior to his Tuesday announcement, the president had been wary to make a decision one way or another on the pipeline. The project has been in the planning phases for some time. Obama has used a number of excuses to avoid having to directly comment on the issue.

The dilemma over the pipeline construction puts the president in a bit of a pickle: does he allow it to be built, catering to conservative, pro-growth, pro-energy interests (along with the powerful labor interests) or does he side with another loyal faction of his supporters, environmentalists, whose concerns center around the threat of ground-water pollution?

The president has chosen to side with enviromentalists' concerns that the project could be irrevocably damaging to the ground water supply.

According to one senior administration official: "The environmental impacts will be important criteria used in the determination of whether the Keystone pipeline application will ultimately be approved at the completion of the State Department decision process," said the senior administration official.

The environmental impacts that the Obama administration is asking for are unclear and arbitrary. How much green house gas is considered too much? This draws the question: is this really just an excuse to labor as to why the project will not be built?

Obama's speech walked a fine line, balancing the interests of environmentalists and labor. Ultimately, much like his recent announcement about power plant emissions, he has caved to environmental pressures in the name of the national interest.