Some recent Mitt Romney campaign commercials focused on what the presumptive GOP presidential candidate would do on “Day One” if he defeats President Barack Obama in November.

One of his promises for Jan. 21, along with “begin replacing Obamacare with common-sense health care reforms” and offering tax code changes “to reward job creators, not punish them,” was to “immediately approve the Keystone pipeline, creating thousands of jobs that Obama blocked.”

Although keeping the first two pledges is not really in a president’s direct power (Congress would have to pass the appropriate laws first), the last promise is within the chief executive’s discretion.

That is, Obama could approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline tomorrow, as it has been blocked not by any law but by his administration’s pro-environmentalist and anti-consumer policies.

Unfortunately, Romney may not get the chance to keep his pipeline pledge even if he does win the race for the Oval Office, because decisions now being made north of the border could take it out of his hands.

Recall that the Keystone XL pipeline was intended to bring oil from Canada’s Alberta tar sands through the Midwest to link with other pipelines that would carry it to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.


The tar sands contain nearly 200 billion barrels of oil reserves, almost equal to the amount available in Saudi Arabia, and the pipeline was designed to carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day. For an administration that has said it wants to lessen U.S. reliance on oil from uncertain allies abroad, approving this deal would boost U.S. energy security and lower the cost of fuel to Americans.

Because the pipeline would cross above a pool of groundwater called the Ogallala Aquifer, in Nebraska’s Sand Hills region, however, environmentalists who form a substantial part of Obama’s political base raised objections, even after the State Department (which gets to rule on cross-border transactions) had said it posed no problems. Indeed, many other pipelines already pass above the same piece of ground.

Oil from tar sands is thicker than conventionally extracted oil, and that characteristic, plus the fact that its extraction reportedly releases more carbon dioxide than normal drilling (a favorite “climate-change” chimera), let environmentalists stick the propagandistic label “dirty oil” on Alberta’s product.

All those factors made handy excuses for calling for “new studies” that would delay the pipeline’s approval past the Nov. 6 election, even though three years of studies already have been conducted.

The pipeline’s owner, TransCanada of Calgary, Alberta, then proposed an alternate route that would bypass the Sand Hills, although that route would require a new series of environmental studies that would take nine months to a year to complete, with no guarantee of approval, either.

That led even former President Bill Clinton to say in March that it was time for the United States to “embrace” the long-delayed project by giving the new route a green light.


The impact of Obama’s stalling, however, may not just be pandering to his hard-core supporters. It could kill the project entirely, if it has not already done so.

That’s because his thumb-to-the nose attitude toward a deal the Canadian government believed already was approved has led leaders in Ottawa to cast their own disdainful digital gestures back at Washington.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper now says Obama’s backing off the Keystone commitment will alter Canada’s energy policies permanently. Those policies have seen Canadian oil selling for less than world market prices because the United States was almost its only customer.

Now, however, Harper said the county will never again be “held hostage” to U.S. politics. “What it really has highlighted for Canada is that our issue when it comes to energy and energy security is not North American self-sufficiency.” Instead, he said, it is “the necessity of diversifying our energy export markets.”

Therefore, Canada, as The New York Times reported on June 13, “is plunging ahead with building pipelines on its own” by “streamlining permit processes.”

With China and other nations now viewed as more reliable customers than the United States, Canadian firms are seeking two new pipelines to the West Coast and are considering using an existing one terminating in Portland to move oil across the Atlantic.


That’s produced heartburn in Maine’s environmental community, but there’s little anyone south of the border can do about internal Canadian projects.

In the Times’ words, “billions of barrels of oil that would have been refined and used in the United States are now poised to head elsewhere.”

And as pro-Keystone critics note, once a trans-Canada pipeline is built, Canada has no reason to deal favorably with American oil refineries, leaving us more dependent than ever on imports from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria.

Instead of smoothing troubled waters, Obama’s green-pandering pipeline fiasco is going to roil them even more.


M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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