Why Doesn’t President Obama Listen to His Own State Department on Keystone XL?

Has President Obama ever read the State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone XL? If he had, he would know that many of the concerns he has raised about the project have already been answered by his own administration. After six years of study and five environmental impact evaluations, the State Department concluded that Keystone XL would not be an export pipeline; it would create 42,100 jobs; and, most importantly, it absolutely passes the president’s climate test.

Today, the Washington Post Fact Checker took a look at President Obama’s claim that Keystone XL crude would go “everywhere else” but the United States and concluded that it “earns Three Pinocchios. We nearly made it Four Pinocchios”. As the Post explains:

“Twice during his recent overseas trip, President Obama asserted that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline was designed to take Canadian crude oil to the world markets. The implication of the president’s words is that the United States would be simply a conveyor belt for the oil. The pipeline would allow the Canadians “to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else,” the president said in Burma. The question he faced, he said in Australia, is whether “we should approve a pipeline shipping Canadian oil to world markets, not to the United States.” Is this really the case?

Indeed, the State Department’s final environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL project specifically disputed claims that the oil “would pass through the United States and be loaded onto vessels for ultimate sale in markets such as Asia,” saying it was not economically justified. The State Department noted that the traditional sources of crude for the Gulf Coast, such as Mexico and Venezuela, are declining and so refineries would have ‘significant incentive to obtain heavy crude from the oil sands.’”

This isn’t the first time fact checkers have called out the president for not reading his own State Department report, and therefore missing the facts.  The last time President Obama completely underestimated the jobs from Keystone XL, calling them a “blip” to the relative need, the Washington Post Fact Checker gave President Obama “Two Pinocchios” for giving a “low-ball estimate.”  The Fact Checker also added, “Ordinarily, we would expect the president to cite an estimate from his own State Department, rather than a think tank opposed to the project.”  The editorial board of the Grand Forks Herald called the president’s “blip” claim “pretty close to ludicrous.” The Tampa Bay Times Politifact noticed that even the Sierra Club had higher job numbers than President Obama and concluded that his job numbers were simply “false.”  Keystone XL is about jobs and that’s why the president of the Laborers International Union of North America (LUINA) Terry O’Sullivan said yesterday that Democrats who didn’t support Keystone XL in the Senate vote this week “took food off the table of our members.”

President Obama said again that the “major determinant” for approval of Keystone XL is “does it contribute to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change”?  Again, if he had read the State Department’s environmental assessment, he would know that Keystone XL passes his test with flying colors.  And it’s not just the State Department that’s come to this conclusion. In addition to research institutions and dozens of prominent energy and climate exports, International Energy Agency (IEA) chief economist Fatih Birol said last week, “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.”

President Obama keeps saying that he’s devoted to the “process” playing itself out, which is his State Department’s determination, yet thus far he has completely ignored the “process” and what it has concluded: that Keystone XL will not be an export pipeline, it will create tens of thousands of jobs, and it passes his climate test.

So who is President Obama listening to?  While it’s clear that Keystone XL won in the election with overwhelming bipartisan support, perhaps the Wall Street Journal editorial board put it best when it said about Democrats who didn’t support it: “Tom Steyer owns them.”

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