GOP Threaten to Harm the Economy If Obama Won’t Embrace Tar Sands Pipeline

UPDATE 12/22:  “House GOP Cave on Tax Cut Extension Paves Way for Obama to Deny Keystone XL Permit.”

Tweet from Dan PfeifferGOP Threaten to Kill Tax Relief and Unemployment Extension Over Keystone XL, Forcing a Quick Decision that Likely Dooms Pipeline — as GOP Intends!


JR:  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said today he will not support a payroll tax cut extension if he is not allowed to shoot this dog (or at least the climate the dog lives in) TPM reported today.  Apologies to “National Lampoon” and canine aficionados.

UPDATE:  Obama and the Dems caved to the GOP, agreeing to a decision in 60 days on Keystone in return for a 2-month (!) extension of tax relief and unemployment.  Reuters reports:

An administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the administration hadn’t changed its earlier stance that it would reject the application for Keystone if forced to act within a 60-day window.

That, I believe, is what the GOP wants.  I was on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night and explained why:

By Kate Gordon and Daniel J. Weiss in a CAP repost

As Congress attempts to finish its 2011 work, the House leadership continues to push hard to speed up the permitting process for the Keystone XL pipeline. Today Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) threatened to add a Keystone provision to a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, scheduled to expire on December 31. Boehner told reporters:

These rumors that are floating around here about a two-month extension, I’ll just say this: If that bill comes over to us, we will make changes to it, and I will guarantee you that the Keystone pipeline will be in there when it goes back to the United States Senate.

Ironically the State Department said Monday that such legislation would prevent it from approving the Keystone permit:

Should Congress impose an arbitrary deadline for the permit decision, its actions would not only compromise the process, it would prohibit the Department from acting consistently with National Environmental Policy Act requirements by not allowing sufficient time for the development of this information. In the absence of properly completing the process, the Department would be unable to make a determination to issue a permit for this project.

Nonetheless, on Wednesday House leadership—and some Democrats—passed a tax extender package that included a sped-up permitting process for the Keystone XL pipeline. In explaining why on earth this controversial 1,700-mile oil pipeline should be appended to a tax package focused on unemployment insurance and payroll taxes, Rep. Boehner argued that the pipeline private-sector infrastructure project “would create tens of thousands of American jobs.”

But as The Washington Post pointed out Wednesday, the Keystone project would do no such thing.

Yes, the TransCanada Corporation initially said the pipeline might create as many as 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs. But the company soon walked that figure back, explaining that its calculation was based on a “one job-one year” measure, meaning that one person working for two consecutive years would be counted twice. Using a more accurate calculation, TransCanada estimated the project would employ about 6,500 jobs. And an independent study by the Cornell Labor Institute found an even smaller number, noting that the pipeline will actually create “no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years.”

So Keystone is not, in fact, the key to getting tens of thousands of Americans back to work and off of unemployment insurance. But Keystone is much more insidious than that. Committing to this project would put the United States on the path toward an energy future characterized by extraction and export of dirty fossil fuels, where the vast majority of the benefits go straight to Big Oil companies.

The five largest oil companies have made $100 billion in profits so far in 2011 and are on track to make $130 billion. Rather than investing in clean alternative fuels, these companies are using their profits to buy back their own stock. And the five largest companies have nearly $60 billion in cash reserves. Meanwhile, four of the largest companies shed a total of 11,000 U.S. employees over the past five years.

But here’s what’s really at stake. This is a 1,700-mile pipeline, which would run all the way from upper Alberta, Canada, down to Houston, Texas. On the way it would pass through one province and six states. As originally routed, the pipeline would move 435,000 barrels per day of heavy crude oil through miles and miles of pipe that some fear is being manufactured under less-than-stringent controls in China and India. The line will run through critical areas such as Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, where a leak or an oil spill could easily contaminate the water source for nearly 20 percent of the country’s agriculture.

All that oil—which, not incidentally, is extracted in the dirtiest way possible from the tar sands in Alberta—would then run down to Houston, where it would be refined and made, in large part, into petroleum products for export to foreign markets.

So far this story isn’t that great: not too many jobs, lots of environmental concerns, and not exactly promoting energy independence.

But it’s even bigger than that. If we build this 1,700-mile pipeline, we are making a decision about what kind of America we want to live in. We are choosing to allow Big Oil to tell us what kind of energy and fuel we should use, rather than choosing energy alternatives that work for each region of the country and build off our natural advantages of sun, wind, geothermal, and biomass.

We are also choosing to put our land, dollars, and hard work into the service of an industry that, in the long run, won’t really create all that much economic wealth for ordinary Americans.

Over the long term, most jobs in the oil sector aren’t good middle-class construction and manufacturing jobs; they’re minimum-wage jobs behind gas station counters. Contrast this with initiatives aimed at growing the clean energy economy, where there are job opportunities across a huge variety of industries and occupations, including a significant chunk in the manufacturing sector—long the anchor for America’s middle class.

In short, by choosing the pipeline, the House leadership is forcing America onto an economic path based on extraction and export, not one based on innovation and choice.

When the alternative looks like it can create jobs today, making a choice that’s in our long-term economic and environmental interest can be hard. It is especially hard for those workers (and the unions who represent them) who are most likely to get the 6,500 temporary construction jobs promised by pipeline developer TransCanada. But that’s why we have a national government—to take the long view and make the decisions that are truly best for the country, not for any particular state, region, industry, or interest group.

It is Congress’s job to get this country onto the path toward sustainable and strong economic growth, not to sell our country to the oil-and-gas industry. Clearly the House did not get that message. But that doesn’t mean the American people need to agree.

Kate Gordon is Vice President for Energy Policy and Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress.

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36 Responses to GOP Threaten to Harm the Economy If Obama Won’t Embrace Tar Sands Pipeline

  1. Sasparilla says:

    Heard on NPR while driving home that the administration has now gone from vowing outright veto of any bill containing the XL pipeline blackmail to now being non committal.

    I suppose this would provide political cover if he wanted to approve it anyways – which he obviously was planning on doing (judging by the greased political skids for passage originally). Be interesting to see what happens.

  2. MarkfromLexington says:

    I’d encourage anyone who cares about our environment to make your views known to Obama now – right now – before it is too late. Let him know that we expect him to stand and fight for our clean air, our clean water, our health and the health of our environment.

    As for me, if he allows the Keystone XL pipeline to proceed, he will lose my vote. I’m tired of seeing our president back down to Republicans who are holding our country hostage. He needs to make it clear that the fossil fuel industry will get no ransom money from us.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    This is an especially loathsome development. We might as well just put Rex Tillerson and David Koch in the White House, and get it over with.

  4. Stephen J Spang says:

    Does our President actually stand for anything that he spouts? I keep hoping that he will show us that he means what he says. I have been disappointed over and over again. Why are the Republicans running a candidate for office? They already have their man in Obama.

  5. Raul M. says:

    With as much money our gov. Has for the military side of life, I doubt that they would let that part of the gov. go default.
    But do they do that by putting up the monies for the pentagon first and then borrow for the other uses of the gov.?
    Is it really that over half of all gov. monies go to the pentagon?

  6. Leif says:

    The picture at the heading reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles where the Sheriff puts the gun to his head and walks away. I, for one, am not going to fall for it. I saw the movie.

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s the all-so-familiar Obama back-flip with double pike. Backslide a little, then a bit more, then go ‘all the way’, as you were always going to, because your business owners absolutely insist. Deny, or forget, each stage of the retreat, of course-that’s standard operating procedure. It’s like a rehearsed play. Collusion between the parties is probably unnecessary-they know their roles too well to need further coaching.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    He stands for the interests of wealth and power and those who control it, and him. That has been blatantly obvious from day one, and the denialism about Obama and his real purpose mirrors the denialism of climate destabilisation, if with the difference that one is motivated by embarrassment and bitter regret, and the other by motives far more malignant. The idiot’s carnival of the Republican nomination process is proof that the kakistos have, in Obama, a servant beyond price, and they are going to keep him on.

  9. Strikes me as pure evil

  10. mulp says:

    Right, telling Obama to kill the XL pipeline and reduce the deficit by hiking taxes on workers and bankrupting the unemployed is just the best thing for America because that will force most Americans to cause less fossil fuels to be burned. After all, being homeless is greener than being working poor.

  11. mulp says:

    Obama resigned from Congress three years ago. Congress is an independent branch of government beyond the President’s control.

    Congress is the branch of government tying the XL Pipeline to the payroll tax cut and UI extension, not Obama.

    And Republicans will continue to do thing kind of thing until progressives and environmentalists figure out that Congress writes and passes the laws, not the President. The President is required by the Constitution to enforce the laws passed by Congress, so if you want different laws, make sure Congress reflects your views of proper laws.

  12. If Obama caves on Keystone XL climate disaster after only a few weeks he totally loses my vote.

    “We must end the tyranny of oil…for a few days and then let them carry on crushing our kids future once again.”

    “Change you can believe in…until the next commercial break.”

    Is humanity really going to throw its children overboard? Like this? Too pathetic to believe…

  13. Mark says:

    OPPORTUNITY? As some point, americans will expect congress to just deal with legislation about a SINGLE subject at a time, so things sink or swim based on the merits and not just snuck in as riders on unrelated items. Lots of states do it that way.


    I’d bytch about the non-constitutional 60-votes needed rule to get bills out of the senate too (the supermajority) but one thing at a time.

  14. Mike Roddy says:

    It remains to be seen if Obama will veto here. Signals are mixed.

  15. Artful Dodger says:

    Hi Lief, cultural reference, here:

  16. Bob Geiger says:

    Let us be moved to action and not just outrage. Read the stories on the pipeline deal carefully. An administration official is quoted in today’s Post as saying that the GOP insisted on language which means the pipeline permit will be rejected. The State Department said essentially the same thing the day before. The tax cut deal does not mean the pipeline will be approved, by any means. We need to press the White House to deny the permit. Ultimately, this is likely to be a political decision, as it has been all along. Activists in the streets turned the politics against the pipeline last month. Now the Republicans are trying to turn the politics back by asserting that this will create 20,000 jobs. This jobs creation claim is not true, as the above blog post makes clear. That is the message that we need to all be doing our best to get out in the next days and week. That will create a political environment where Obama can deny the permit.

  17. Mike Roddy says:

    We can’t trust the language of a bill the Republicans are passing, or a statement from Obama on the subject unless it includes a firm commitment to either veto or deny the permit- backed by support from State and Interior.

  18. Bob Geiger says:

    I’m not asking anyone to trust anything. I’m merely suggesting that we look carefully at what is happening and find the best way to exert pressure to influence the outcome of the process in a way that benefits the planet.

  19. CTG says:

    I think the jobs they had in mind were the tens of thousands of security guards it will take to make sure no one blows up the damn pipeline…

  20. jc3622 says:

    Not withstanding the question of whether the pipeline is a net plus or net negative for the country, any comment to blame Obama for not acting responsibly and coming to the conclusion that you will not vote for him again is absolutely the wrong conclusion to reach. A vote withheld from Obama is one more count to be added to whoever the opposing candidate is. That candidate is committed to GOP agenda, the very agenda the pipeline project will advance. How anyone can fall for the charade being perpetrated by the GOP to discredit Obama on every possible opportunity is beyond me. Wake up to this chicanery and support Obama. He is our only hope to avoid the catastrophe of the Republican policies.

  21. MemphisBill says:

    You’re so full of it.

  22. MemphisBill says:

    He won’t veto this, but the main thing is that he doesn’t approved it. We’ll find out in 60 days.

  23. Yes, this is a lesson people should have learned after Florida in 2000, but some apparently weren’t paying attention…

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Forgive me, but I think that you are wrong. In fact Obama and the Republicans have exactly the same agenda-to serve ‘Them’ the rich 0.01% who own the political caste. Promises made to the voting public, around election time, are cynical lies. In a capitalist economy money rules, ‘democracy’ is a hypocritical sham controlled by the weight of money and the entirely Rightwing MSM is a gigantic indoctrination system and conduit for disinformation. To imagine that there is a ‘good’ Obama, straining at the leash to save the planet and humanity from the depredations of the rich, is, I fear, a delusion of wishful thinking.

  25. Ernest says:

    Unfortunately, it’s not just Republican’s claim of jobs. Unions and the AFL-CIO support the pipeline. This is a strategy to split the Democratic base. (Of course, both sides play these games on each other.) How the president will get out of this political double bind probably depends on the language of the text. There may be questions on “interpretation” and constitutionality that may even take some time. But we will see.

  26. President Obama has a bit too much sympathy for the corporate crowd for my taste, but he is a good man in a bad system, one in which he has to get re-elected, so he can’t do what he’d prefer to do all the time. But the question to ask yourself is “Who is more likely to do the right thing, Obama or the Republicans?”. And the answer is virtually always Obama, so the best thing you can do is to re-elect him and give him large majorities in congress so he can govern for the next 4 years. The next few years are critical for the climate, and a delusional Republican president would be a disaster. Staying home, thinking that there’s no difference between President Obama and the Republicans is like shooting yourself in the head, and it’s the same errant logic that led 100,000 people to vote for Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000, when if a few hundred had voted the other way the Bush people never would have gotten near the white house (remember Ralph Nader saying there was not difference between Bush and Gore? I sure do.). Did you enjoy the GW Bush administration? Well, the same logic that led to that disaster will lead to more such disasters in the future, so I encourage you to rethink your position.

  27. Anderlan says:

    If this does allow Obama to reject the pipeline, I will have to right my Republican representative and senators all thank you notes…

  28. denim says:

    You must have copied that directly out of the Republican’s blackmail note.

  29. John McCormick says:

    Jonathan, thanks for making the choice we face next November so clear.

    I stress the real probability the rethugs will take the US Senate in November…23 Senate Dem seat up with 6 of them retiring with only 10 rethugs up for reelection. A rethug House, Senate and Presidency is the end of America’s democracy and future. Might as well move the Koch bros into Blair House if that comes about.

  30. thanes says:

    Joe Romm,
    I posted this under the open thread also. I loved the Countdown appearance but I was concerned talking about energy intensity of Tar Sands offers a window of distraction. Real issue is 200-400gT carbon in the air. It’s like the oil spill issue- horrible to think what a large spill into the Ogalla aquifer would be like, yet still less damaging than if every gallon of oil made it safely and cheaply out of my tail-pipe.

  31. free transit says:

    Security. Exactly. The reason for the military occupations of oil/gas source/transport areas abroad. Also the reason for the new lock-up-indefinitely-with-no-hearing policy in the NDAA. Pipelines require totalitarianism.

  32. Leif says:

    Not only “safely and cheaply” as you point out thanes, but legally. With all the carnage subsidized by “we the people.” As the rich smile all the way to the bank. CARBON TAX NOW! That is my story and I am sticking to it.

  33. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Don’t concern yourself with cultural references, Leif, and eat your beans like a good chap.

  34. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Jonathan, I’ve thought about it long and hard, and believe that there is little or no difference between Obama and his ostensible ‘opponents’. We’ll just have to agree to disagree. With the Repugnants, what you see is what you get, while with Obama the result is the same, but the outward appearances are cunningly disguised. A ‘lesser evil’ is still evil. And please believe me-I hope you are correct and I am wrong.

  35. thanes says:

    Carbon tax or death! Quite literally. Stark HR 3242, the Save Our Climate Act. Read it. Lobby for it. Look into Citizens Climate Lobby, doing something, anything, helps keep me sane(r).

  36. Mark says:

    The lesser of two evils is still evil. The lemmings all die whether they gallop over the cliff or just march. Even a good guy among the lemmings, unable to bust loose from the pack, will go over with the rest of the crowd.

    If anyone thinks a kinder friendlier source of corporate power and finance will allow the Obama and the Dems to the only sort of changes that are required to avert meltdown they are deluded.

    And about Florida…. be sure you know who to hate. Please look at the number of 3rd party voters that would have gone to the GOP and subtract. Compare the result to the likely DEM voters disenfranchised by GOP led assault on voter registration. Puts Florida 2000 in a rather new light doesn’t it?