The delayed decision on the Keystone XL pipeline

In a rare move, President Obama offered a bipartisan olive branch last week. That is, Obama managed, in across-the-aisle-fashion, to make just about every constituency unhappy.

Implying that he will sit on the decision concerning Canada’s XL oil pipeline until after the 2012 election, the President naively thinks he can harness everyone’s vote without supporting anyone’s cause. Whether you’re a labor activist, environmentalist or even a Swarthmore Conservative, you’re bound to feel snookered by the White House.

The proposed pipeline, stalled since 2009, is scheduled to meander about 1,700 miles across U.S. plains, transporting crude oil from the sands in Alberta, across Montana, then Nebraska, before joining with the existing pipeline and eventually flowing to the Gulf.

As of now, our neighbors to the North lack sufficient refining capacity, while refineries in the Lone Star State idle because of a dip in domestic production. In that respect, it’s the perfect partnership.

Many are surprised to learn that Canada provides the U.S. with its highest percentage of crude and refined oil products, accounting for around 27 percent of American net imports. To be clear, that’s more than the oil that flows in from the entire Persian Gulf, Mexico or Venezuela.

Accusing former President Bush of having petroleum on the mind when he invaded Iraq may make for a good political punch, but, in reality, Iraq accounts for under five percent of U.S. crude imports. As of 2010, Iraq was greasing China’s energy economy far more than it was America’s. Meanwhile, with the oil boost the U.S. stands to gain from Canada, we could plausibly drop one of our more hostile suppliers, like Venezuela. What’s more, the U.S. treasury would accrue $5 billion in new revenue.

Cries about global warming lead the wedge opposition against the construction, yet some number-crunching from the American Enterprise Institute demonstrates that, should Americans and Canadians cancel their plans, cut their engines and stop refining any Canadian imports, the Chinese alone would generate an equivalent level of carbon dioxide in under two weeks.

Truly, the XL pipeline won’t add more than one percent to the pipeline infrastructure that already zigzags across the U.S. and Canada. Yes, transporting tons upon tons of “dirty” liquid has its risks and needs to be taken seriously, but these hazards are far smaller than the liabilities that come with rail or truck shipments. I respect those who have qualms about disrupting ecosystems, but the nature of a pipeline is such that it can serpentine around sensitive areas. Indeed, the TransCanada Corporation agreed on Monday to reroute the line around Nebraska’s tender Sand Hills.

The real cracks come not in the pipeline itself, but the political clash it’s provoked. Because the project originates in Canada, the U.S. State Department must nod yay or nay before things get chugging.

Borrowing a move from Hamlet’s playbook, the President is reported to have kicked the pipeline down the road until 2013. More accurately, he’s stubbed his toe against two powerful progressive allies: the Greens and Unions. And in an unexpected friendship, Republicans and Canadians are now arm and arm in the debate on behalf of the economy, energy and employment. Environmentalists, of course, resent the environmental repercussions, while the coalition of unions sees XL as a goldmine for good-paying jobs.

It is no small irony that the President has been openly slamming Congressional Republicans for the past several months on their apparent willingness to stall on jobs and stick to petty political decisions. But with the U.S. economy making less progress than a hamster on a wheel, it looks awfully, well, partisan to delay the prospect of 20,000 jobs to avoid alienating voters. If the President were to give the pipeline a thumbs-down, I’d disagree with his economics, but at least I’d honor his willingness to deliver a firm decision.

Instead, he’s performing a charade for unionists and greens, attempting to dupe both blocs into pulling the lever for him next November. As this drags on, neither side is bound to win, and the rest of us face high gas prices, wedded to high unemployment, divorced from high hopes.

Alas, this all comes from a President who plans to run under the 2012 reelection banner “We Can’t Wait.”

I suggest the POTUS follow his own guidance.

Danielle is a sophomore. You can reach her at

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