Attacks Fair and Not-So-Fair on Obama's Keystone Decision

The Obama administration's decision to block the Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday ignited protests on the right and jubilation on the left.

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The Obama administration's decision to block the Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday ignited protests on the right and jubilation on the left. President Obama said his decision was "not a judgment on the merits" of the pipeline but a response to "the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project." That deadline was imposed by Congress as part of a tax deal and lobbied for by House Republicans. The construction of the pipeline has been a focal point during this election season and will continue to be as Republicans challenge President Obama on the project, which would have connected Canada's oil sands to refineries in Texas. Already, Mitt Romney said the president's decision is "as shocking as it is revealing." Putting a curb on the high-flying rhetoric going around, here's which talking points pass the smell test and which ones don't.

The Fair

He bowed to special interests, some of whom were spreading falsehoods about the pipeline. It's no secret that environmental groups have had a powerful sway on the administration, as its support for the pipeline has fluctuated over time. One such group was the Natural Resources Defense Council, which said the pipeline was "at odds with millions of clean energy jobs." It was a claim supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as well, but as the Council on Foreign Relations' energy expert Michael Levi writes, it had little merit. "Clean energy is important, but these claims are unjustified. Entrepreneurs weren't waiting on the sidelines to see what happened with Keystone XL before pouring money into new technologies for biofuels or solar power. Nor were motorists putting off the choice between a Prius and a Hummer until the State Department weighed in," he writes. "The future of the green economy will depend on whether the U.S. government can consistently penalize dirty energy across the economy — rather than in isolated spots such as this pipeline — as well as promote greater energy efficiency through regulation and offer direct support to sustainable-energy innovation."

President Obama is defying his own jobs council. In an ill-timed report for the Obama administration, The Hill reports that that President Obama's jobs council has called for an "all-in approach" on energy. "That includes expanded oil-and-gas drilling as well as expediting energy projects like pipelines."

President Obama is kicking the can down the road. This is a favored talking point of The Washington Examiner's David Freddoso and it's largely true. As The Hill notes in today' scoop, "While the administration is expected to reject TransCanada Corp.’s permit application, it will allow the company to re-apply." Given that the state department has studied the project for the last three years, according to The Los Angeles Times, it's fair to question why the decision must be delayed until after the elections.

The Not-So-Fair

The pipeline would've been a huge job creator. This was a favored talking point of many on the right. However, as the left-leaning Think Progress notes, the gains would've paled in comparison to other Obama administration priorities.

The pipeline would've reduced our dependence on foreign oil. This was a tackled by CFR's Michael Levi. "U.S. vulnerability to turmoil in the Middle East is linked to how much oil we consume, not where we buy it from. The price of oil is set on world markets: When convulsions in Libya sent the price of crude up 30 percent last year, prices for Canadian heavy oil (similar to what is produced from oil sands) rose by nearly 55 percent," he wrote. "Some pipeline proponents also pointed out that Canadian oil currently sells at a discount compared with oil supplies from the rest of the world. Keystone XL, however, wouldn't have led Canada to start offering greater amounts of crude at deep discounts — instead, Canadian producers would have gained more leverage and would have been able to sell their oil at the world price."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.