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A note from TRC on the Keystone XL Decision

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TRC tends to think that when most people are confronted with a difficult decision, they will weigh the options and choose what they think is the best. If they don’t, that’s what they should be doing.

And I think that’s what President Obama and his team did when they decided to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline today. I like to think that Obama and his staff looked at the benefits and the risks, weighed them, and came to a decision based on the evidence. That isn’t to say that someone could not do the same, and come out on the other side. But it is to say that Obama took the decision seriously, and chose with care. This is what I hope.

The pros of the Keystone XL pipeline, the only talking point there is for this project, is jobs. It creates jobs. It’s shovel ready. If you oppose the line, you are an extremist who does not put American jobs first. Look at the GOP responses already compiled, only hours after the decision was made public.

  • “His decision today is a victory for the few extreme environmental activists who have lined up to protest Keystone and a defeat for the tens of thousands of Americans who are lining up to find a Keystone job.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
  • “How long does it take for President Obama to put the needs of America’s workers ahead of his political interests?” Dick Lugar (R-Ind.)
  • “I would note that under the law the president signed, the decision to claim that these jobs are not in the national interest is his alone. The president is the only one who can make that determination and block the jobs. ” Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • “President Obama is about to destroy tens of thousands of American jobs and sell American energy security to the Chinese. The president won’t stand up to his political base even to create American jobs.”  Brendan Buck, John Boehner’s spokesman.

Jobs are an important argument. One of the most important arguments when trying to recover a depressed economy. But it is not the only argument, and it is not the most important argument when making policy, especially when making long-term decisions for the health of a nation. We need to create jobs. But we should not be obsessed; we should not create ANY jobs just because they are jobs. Instead, we should create 21st century, forward-looking, nation-improving jobs. Which  TRC believes, and hopefully the Obama Administration agrees, are not oil-pumping, greenhouse gas emitting, boreal forest destroying jobs.

And in this light, Texas Gov. and GOP Presidential nominee Rick Perry’s response is particularly telling: “The president’s focused more on the next election than on the next generation.”

This is exactly wrong, Rick Perry. The people of Nebraska who oppose this pipeline, and the people of the Western US who require the Oglala Aquifer for their drinking water, the environmental community and those who prioritize the long-term health of the US and its resources are more concerned about the next generation than they are the this election.

And at least on this decision, so is President Obama. If President Obama were only concerned with the 2012 presidential election, he would have approved this pipeline. That seems fairly safe to assume. Approving the pipeline is more politically expedient than denying it.  Because jobs are the word. If you can’t say JOBS in this political atmosphere, you are losing the battle.   If you think that the Obama base is appeased by this one action, and thus will boost him in the 2012 general election, you fundamentally misunderstand the liberal voting base.

Regardless of how this action will be taken, TRC is happy to see President Obama make a decision that provides a voice to the future health of this country and its future citizens. TRC  is happy Obama can see beyond this moment in January 2012, and make the right choice for January 2212. Because the American citizens of 2212 have the same right to clean drinking water we do. If you can’t look beyond the current predicament, and provide for the future, even in difficult times like these, then you should not be making long-term decisions that will impact the lives of millions of Americans.

This decision now made does not end the Keystone story, nor does it end an all of the above energy agenda including coal, nuclear and gas that the President has always confirmed he supports. But it is a good decision for today. Nice work, Chief.

*UPDATE: Here is the President Obama’s release on the decision:

As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment. As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied. And after reviewing the State Department’s report, I agree.
 In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security — including the potential development of an oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico — even as we set higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks and invest in alternatives like biofuels and natural gas.

The decision allows TransCanada to reapply for a permit to build the pipeline, which the company immediately signaled it would do.

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Written by Christopher ZF

January 18, 2012 at 15:17

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