Fact Checking President Obama as Congress Votes on Keystone XL

As Congress moves forward with bills to approve Keystone XL, President Obama made a number of comments about the pipeline, which simply don’t align with the facts.  To help cut through the flurry of activity and misinformation, OSFC is providing the top key facts you should know:

1)    Keystone XL Will Not Be an Export Pipeline: Not only did the State Department in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) confirm once again that Keystone XL will not be a crude oil export pipeline, even several news outlets have exposed this claim as erroneous.  When billionaire anti-Keystone XL activist Tom Steyer produced a series of ads purporting that the oil from Keystone XL would be exported, the Washington Post Fact Checker called him out, giving him “Four Pinocchios” for making “insinuations and assertions not justified by the reality.”  The Fact Checker continued saying Steyer’s claim “does not even meet the minimal standards for such political attack ads. It relies on speculation, not facts, to make insinuations and assertions not justified by the reality.”

2)    Obama Has Been Called Out on His Jobs Claims Before: As for the president’s jobs claims, OSFC still has to wonder if he’s read his own State Department’s assessment, which found that Keystone XL would create 42,100 jobs.  Further, the last time President Obama said that the jobs from Keystone XL were just a “blip,” the Washington Post gave President Obama “Two Pinocchios” for giving a “low-ball estimate.”  The Post went on to say, “Ordinarily, we would expect the president to cite an estimate from his own State Department, rather than a think tank opposed to the project.”  An editorial from Grand Forks Herald perhaps put the president’s low estimates best, saying: “This is pretty close to ludicrous.” There’s a good reason that union groups have rallied across the country for Keystone XL approval.  Terry O’Sullivan President of Labors International Union of North America (LIUNA) put it well when he said, “It’s about jobs; that’s what it’s about.” Sean McGarvey President of the Building and Construction Trades Department at AFL-CIO explained the importance of these construction jobs for his union this way: “The interstate highway system was a temporary job; Mount Rushmore was a temporary job. If they knew anything about the construction industry they’d understand that we work ourselves out of jobs and we go from job to job to job.”

3)    About Obama’s Nebraska Excuse: Numerous business groups and unions, ranging from North America’s Building Trades Unions to the National Association of Manufacturers to the American Petroleum Institute, wrote a letter to the State Department explaining that the latest delay tactic on Keystone XL – purportedly due to the Nebraska court decision – is completely unjustified. As the letter stated, “There is no reason for the president to delay issuing the cross-border permit due to a state appellate court proceeding. Keystone XL enjoys the support of the Nebraska governor and policymakers. Nebraska conducted a thorough route assessment.” Terry O’Sullivan, President of Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) wrote “the Obama administration grow a set of antlers or take a lesson from Popeye and eat some spinach.”  He added, “No one seriously believes that the administration’s nearly-dark-of-night announcement last week, on Good Friday, that the pipeline would again be delayed was anything but politically motivated.” Even the Washington Post editorial board said that President Obama’s Nebraska excuse was “absurd.”  As the Post put it,

“This time, the excuse is litigation in Nebraska over the proposed route, because that might lead to a change in the project that various federal agencies will want to consider. The State Department might even decide to substantially restart the environmental review process. This is yet another laughable reason to delay a project that the federal government has been scrutinizing for more than five years….The administration’s latest decision is not responsible; it is embarrassing. The United States continues to insult its Canadian allies by holding up what should have been a routine permitting decision amid a funhouse-mirror environmental debate that got way out of hand. The president should end this national psychodrama now, bow to reason, approve the pipeline and go do something more productive for the climate.” (emphasis added)

4)    President Obama Veto Would Be Hugely Unpopular: As the Washington Post reported yesterday, a presidential veto of Keystone XL “could be pretty unpopular.” That’s because, as the Post points out, “Poll after poll has shown support for Keystone is somewhere between very strong and overwhelming.” Therefore the Post says, “Obama would likely have very few supporters were he to wield his veto pen.” Further, as the Financial Post reported today, the Keystone XL vote shows “It’s pretty clear legislators of all stripes are getting impatient with the president’s embarrassing treatment of KXL” and President Obama is “increasingly isolated.”

5)    Strong Support from Senate Democrats on Keystone XL: The Senate Keystone XL bill currently has 59 of the 60 votes necessary for approval.  One notable addition is Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) who said yesterday, “We have waited not just months but years for a decision on Keystone.” Earlier this week, his spokesperson said he would vote in favor of the bill.  The Hill also reported last week that Republicans are “‘absolutely’ confident when it comes to Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-Pa.) continued support of the pipeline if a binding vote comes forward.” Just this afternoon, Senator Bennet (D-CO) said he would support the bill, bringing the vote count to 59. That means Senators Carper, Casey and Bennet would join with the eleven Senate Democrats that wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to let his “final decision be the right one, finding that the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest.”

6)    Keystone XL Passes President Obama’s Climate Test: The State Department, research institutions, and energy and climate experts have come to an overwhelming consensus that Keystone XL passes President Obama’s climate test.  This week, International Energy Agency (IEA) chief economist Fatih Birol added to the debate saying, “the additional contribution [of greenhouse gases] coming from the oil sands in Canada, compared to the same amount of oil from Middle East or Brazil or central Asia, is completely peanuts.  It is less than one day of CO2 emissions of China – less than one day, it’s a couple of hours.”  Birol also noted that oil sands are a key element of energy security: “We expect Canadian production will be a very important cornerstone of the security of global oil markets.”

7)    Keystone XL Won in the Elections: As OSFC’s new video shows, the Keystone XL pipeline was very much on the ballot this November and it won with overwhelming bipartisan support. The video highlights how in Arkansas both the Republican and Democratic Senate candidates appeared together at a pro-Keystone XL event.  In Colorado the moderator for the Senate debate asked about the pipeline’s absurd delay.  Even anti-Keystone XL groups endorsed pro-Keystone XL candidates, as they were hard-pressed to find candidates that didn’t back the pipeline.  It couldn’t be clearer that support for Keystone XL, as one recent poll found, is “almost universal.”  As OSFC’s pamphlet explained, Americans overwhelmingly say yes to Keystone XL.  

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