Once upon a time, Obama said future generations would remember his ascendance as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
In a Cushing, Oklahoma, speech today, Obama made clear future generations would remember him for something quite different:
I’ve come to Cushing, an oil town — (applause) — because producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy. (Applause.)
Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. (Applause.) That’s important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.
So we are drilling all over the place — right now….
Obama will, I’ve said, be remembered for a “failed presidency” simply for failing to seriously fight for a climate bill. And this speech certainly guts any possible claim for a climate legacy.
Ironically, as Brad Johnson notes over at TP Green, Cushing is “ground zero for climate disasters in the United States.” In the last five years, “Cushing alone has been hit by disastrous drought, severe summer storms, ice storms, and wildfire.”
Obama will have precisely one more shot to restore his legacy and, more importantly, to give the nation and the world a fighting chance to beat catastrophic climate change — the debt deal that is cut right after the election (see “Bipartisan Support Grows for Carbon Price as Part of Debt Deal”). In the meantime, all we can do to divine his intentions is to listen to what he tells the American people. It ain’t pretty.
So how do we divine his intentions on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline? Read his lips:
So we are drilling all over the place — right now…. That’s not the challenge. That’s not the problem. In fact, the problem in a place like Cushing is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas in places like North Dakota and Colorado that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it to where it needs to go — both to refineries, and then, eventually, all across the country and around the world. There’s a bottleneck right here because we can’t get enough of the oil to our refineries fast enough. And if we could, then we would be able to increase our oil supplies at a time when they’re needed as much as possible.
Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast. And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done. (Applause.)
Now, you wouldn’t know all this from listening to the television set. (Laughter.) This whole issue of the Keystone pipeline had generated, obviously, a lot of controversy and a lot of politics. And that’s because the original route from Canada into the United States was planned through an area in Nebraska that supplies some drinking water for nearly 2 million Americans, and irrigation for a good portion of America’s croplands. And Nebraskans of all political stripes — including the Republican governor there — raised some concerns about the safety and wisdom of that route.
So to be extra careful that the construction of the pipeline in an area like that wouldn’t put the health and the safety of the American people at risk, our experts said that we needed a certain amount of time to review the project. Unfortunately, Congress decided they wanted their own timeline — not the company, not the experts, but members of Congress who decided this might be a fun political issue, decided to try to intervene and make it impossible for us to make an informed decision.
So what we’ve said to the company is, we’re happy to review future permits. And today, we’re making this new pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf a priority. So the southern leg of it we’re making a priority, and we’re going to go ahead and get that done. The northern portion of it we’re going to have to review properly to make sure that the health and safety of the American people are protected. That’s common sense.
But the fact is that my administration has approved dozens of new oil and gas pipelines over the last three years -– including one from Canada. And as long as I’m President, we’re going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure and we’re going to do it in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people. We don’t have to choose between one or the other, we can do both.
Unfortunately, it is simply impossible to have unrestricted development of oil and gas “in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people” — see Ken Caldeira: Natural Gas Is ‘A Bridge To A World With High CO2 Levels’ and “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces.”
I used to be pretty confident that Obama would not approved Keystone after the election (assuming he is reelected — if he hasn’t, the point is obviously moot, since Etch a Sketch guy will certainly approve it). Now I’d say it’s anyone’s guess.
As Bill McKibben wrote:
It’s hard not to wonder if those cynics might be right, now that he’s going to Oklahoma to laud the southern half of the project just as Transcanada executives have requested.
True, the most critical part of the pipeline still can’t be built — thanks to Obama and 42 Democratic Senators, the connection to Canada remains blocked, and hence that remains a great victory for the people who rallied so fiercely all fall. But the sense grows that Obama may be setting us up for a bitter disappointment — that his real allegiance is to the carbon barons.
Now a very wise political analyst I know wrote me, “I believe that the more he does on the Cushing leg, the easier it will be to block the Alberta leg.” He is a glass-is-one-third full guy.
How about you? Do you think Obama will ultimately approve the rest of the pipeline or not?