Sensitivity Training: Team Obama Delays Keystone Decision (Again) To Look For Impacts In The Wrong Place

President Obama’s decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is like those Escher stairs — you keep climbing yet you never seem to get anywhere.

But it’s the metaphor from an unnamed Obama administration official explaining the umpteenth delay that caught my eye.

First, however, Reuters reported this “exclusive” last Friday:

The Obama administration is unlikely to make a decision on the Canada-to-Nebraska Keystone XL pipeline until late this year as it painstakingly weighs the project’s impact on the environment and on energy security, a U.S. official and analysts said on Friday.

The decision may not be made until November, December or even early 2014, said a U.S. official, as President Barack Obama will not rush the process, which still has a number of stages to work through. One of those stages has not even begun yet and will run for months.

The Administration is certainly giving pains. Whether it is taking them remains to be seen. But I digress.

So what kind of pains do they claim they are they taking?

“The president has to be able to show that the administration looked under every stone to ensure it knew as much as it possibly could about the impact of Keystone,” said the official, who did not want to be named given the sensitive nature of the project.

First off, yes, it’s true, the pipeline has a sensitive nature. Heck, it still cries at “It’s a Wonderful Life” not to mention “E.T.” and “Bambi.” Oh and forget entirely about watching “Titanic” with the tar sands pipeline, at least while we are rearranging the deck chairs.

Bottom line on Keystone’s sensitive nature: Almost anything will make it spring a leak. But don’t mention that in public, of course. The pipeline is very touchy about that. I digress again.

It’s this metaphor I liked: Team Obama has to show it “looked under every stone to ensure it knew as much as it possibly could about the impact of Keystone.”

Reuters notes, “The EPA had concerns about the level of emissions from Canada’s oil sands, where crude production is carbon-intensive. It also took issue with the State Department’s conclusion that the pipeline would have no effect on climate because the oil sands would make it to market whether or not the pipeline was approved.”

Team Obama is looking in the wrong place — in fact, it’s looking in the wrong direction entirely. The most worrisome impact of Keystone isn’t under every stone, heck, it isn’t under any stone. It is in the atmosphere, an accelerated change in the climate.

But whatever you do, don’t mention those climate impacts out loud. Turns out the pipeline is sensitive about them, too.

21 Responses to Sensitivity Training: Team Obama Delays Keystone Decision (Again) To Look For Impacts In The Wrong Place

  1. M Tucker says:

    Delay is better an approval. Obama ought to say he is unable to even begin to “painstakingly weigh the project’s impact on the environment” until he has an EPA director to consult with.

  2. Ed Leaver says:

    Wet Towel Dept:

    UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research looked at the growth of the shale gas industry in the United States and questioned whether it had contributed to a global drop in CO2 emissions. The answer was no: Tyndall’s calculations suggest that more than half of the emissions avoided in the U.S. power sector – through the switch from coal to gas – may have been exported as coal.

  3. Raul M. says:

    The metaphor is the official disclaimer for the osterage syndrome?

  4. Raul M. says:

    Radioecoshock has discussion of Ken Caldera taking a position concerning geoengeneering to prevent Arctic ice meltdown? Seems many experts are seeing the Arctic situation as seriously time sensitive to prevent disaster. Surprised if ins doesn’t take a stand as well.
    Stand down seems harder and harder to enforce and less desirable to suggest.

  5. Henry says:

    It’s clear that Obama has too many negatives on his “popularity” plate right now to add to it with the XL pipeline situation.
    But anyone who thinks he’s not going to eventually approve it is seriously delusional. We need to be fighting on other fronts right now. The longer this pipeline battle draws out the more time is wasted!

  6. Jake says:

    This is a good idea – can we delay it again in early 2014?

  7. Brad Johnson, Guest Blogger says:

    Reuters is factually incorrect. The State Department’s report (written by a TransCanada contractor) found that Keystone XL *would* have an impact on climate. It most certainly did not say there would be “no impact.”

  8. Superman1 says:

    AMEG has been pushing this concept for a while. The problem I’ve seen with the AMEG proposals is that non-negligible amounts of fossil fuel are used for the geo-engineering, and they have proposed nothing that would stop the warm Atlantic waters from rushing into the Arctic. Maybe they’ve gotten some new ideas since I last saw their proposals, or maybe Caldera has better ideas. How does he plan to do the geo-engineering?

  9. Will Fox says:

    Why all this delay and dithering? You only need to look at this graph to realise that Keystone is the last thing America (or indeed anywhere in the world) needs right now –

    The equivalent of another 51 coal-fired power plants? No thanks!

  10. Raul M. says:

    My thought, insurance company’s will field expert opinion on the feasibility of geoengeneering and will enter into the discussion.about spraying sulfur into the stratosphere. The expense and misfortune of weather disasters will allow the interest in other outcomes. The idea that only a few reasons not to spray the sulfur exist is frightening to those who think of unintended consequences. We are already in the midst of consequential actions with CO2 ppm at 400.
    That the sulfur will allow the Arctic to freeze, the jet stream to return to established patterns, etc… Would be nice to be able to figure out if that much sulfur in the stratosphere of the Arctic would do…enough good to outweigh the harm. Then there is the new insurance policies that may be established now that the Arctic is melting and the ability to just walk away from “outdated type” policies. Because new commerce in the trade routes means new policies and walking away from disaster prone areas hmm. There seem to be reasons of money that would make people become involved in the discussion of yea or nea beyond those of human suffering.

  11. Jeff Huggins says:

    Preparing For 2016 In a Way That Also Should (and Will) Begin to Influence Things in the Meantime

    From the standpoint of political dynamics and electoral politics, a crucial philosophy and tactic that we ought to adopt now (or asap) and begin to implement asap, is to make it “loud and clear” that we will not vote for any political candidate (especially for President, but also any others) that does not take a strong, solid, outspoken, and credible stand regarding addressing climate change and who is not convincing and credible in doing so. It should be clear (to all of us) by now that we must position ourselves, and our electoral options, so as to avoid another situation where “the only option” is to vote for the “lesser of two evils” when that “lesser evil” will once-gain fail to show effective leadership to address climate change. And getting into such a position is a long-lead-time endeavor; it needs to start now.

    For example, to be concrete, our stance regarding Hilary (I mention her only because she seems to be the “early favorite” among many Democrats and Democrat pundits) should NOT be that Hilary will be the best nominee, and then (following that assumption) adopt an approach that merely appeals to her to be as strong about climate change as she might be. As if to say, “Hilary, you’ll be the best candidate, and we’re with you, so/but please be strong about climate change.” No! No more! Instead, the stance should be that we should demand to know, starting now, from Hilary as well as from any other potential candidate (and present politician), what her/his stance on climate change — including how to address it — is and will be if elected. We (people concerned about climate change, environmental groups, the movement and its leaders, etc.) should quickly begin to position ourselves, and get into the position, in which politicians and potential candidates understand that they will only get our votes if they take a strong, clear, credible stand regarding climate change and how to address it; and that they WON’T get our votes simply by being the lesser of two evils or the assumed/de-facto “favorite” of any political party.

    Let’s avoid making the same mistake over and over and over again, shall we? The time to start is now. Let us avoid finding ourselves in a position, in 2016, where many of us seem to feel pressured to vote for a candidate merely because he/she is the lesser of two evils, having failed to make sure that an actual Excellent candidate, when it comes to addressing climate change, is actually on the ballot.

    Be well,


  12. Pennsylvania Bob says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes!
    Well stated and presents a clear action plan that any of us can follow-through on. We need to put this pressure on all candidates, from dog-catcher on up to president. We need to put them on the spot and get them on the record at every forum and every opportunity.
    Thanks, Jeff.

  13. Merrelyn Emery says:

    In the atmosphere AND in the oceans, ME

  14. Andy Hultgren says:

    Agreed – a significant delay is good news on KXL. The longer it is delayed, the more public opinion will continue to shift against it (I hope).

  15. BobbyL says:

    Obama may be delaying hoping that Congress takes the decision away from him and makes it instead. Many in Congress seem willing to do just that. If Congress takes over and approves it then the whole thing would probably end up in the courts to see if what Congress did was constitutional. However, the building of pipeline would proceed unless the courts issue an injunction.

  16. Congress has no jurisdiction in the matter, or it would already have approved the pipeline. This is the President’s call, and it will have a great deal to do with his legacy — and our futures. Address your concerns to the White House.

  17. Walter Miale says:

    Hats off Joe. This brings to mind Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift.

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Fracking is a pure scam. A lot of loot for the fossil fuel fraternity, front-loaded so that they can bail out as the depletion curve turns nasty, a shed-load of foul pollution, ‘socialised’ onto the schmucks’ water supply, various greedy ‘investors’ taken to the cleaners, renewables delayed and lots of chest-puffery about the ‘new Saudi Arabia’, so the hydrocarbon Mafia can sneer at the Peak Oil crew. Sleaze Rules-OK, as always.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Henry, the ‘negatives’ are what Plan Obama is all about. Obama doesn’t have another election to face, but the plan requires an even more obstructive Congress so Obama can plead impotence, except when there is bi-partisan support to slash welfare, increase ‘defense’, subvert or attack some more enemies, and cut taxes on the rich. Obama needs to make the Democrats smell, by association, in 2014, so he draws out the long ago determined Keystone approval, to make the consequent outrage that much more vigorous, and closer to the election. Last week his Administration stiffened the Tea Party resolve by targeting them for IRS investigation, and outraged his few remaining liberal apologists with his attack on the press, by the seizing of two months of Associated Press telephone records, without any prior notification, in the name of the Holy and Eternal War on Terrorism. This on top of five years of attacks on civil liberties and a real jihad against whistle-blowers, who he had promised to ‘protect’. Once his work is through, the third and fourth Bush terms achieved behind the smokescreen of ‘Hopium Dreams’, no doubt he will be well rewarded in his retirement.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Unfortunately, Jeff, promises made before elections, by the Rightwing politicians who totally dominate capitalist sham ‘democracies’ are ‘writ in water’, and not worth a farthing. Obama promised a lot, and on what has he delivered? On very nearly the exact opposite. A Green candidate might be a better bet, but I’d hate to be in charge of their security if they looked like winning. Otherwise it is a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledummer, and the plutocracy is in the winners’ circle before the race has even begun.

  21. BobbyL says:

    There are many member of Congress who would not agree with you. They have cited laws that would give them the authority. The Senate did pass a resolution approving the pipeline but neither the Senate or House has yet acted to formally approve it. I would say at this point it is unclear who has the final say.