OUR OPINION: Obama’s silence on Keystone spoke volumes
President Barack Obama did not mention the Keystone XL pipeline in his State of the Union speech. But is that silence actually better news for the pipeline’s supporters than for its foes?
In other words, can Americans take Obama’s silence as evidence that the president is leaning toward approving the pipeline?
Yes, say some analysts, including Sean West of Eurasia Group, a New York-based global political risk research and consulting firm.
Here’s a look at West and other’s arguments. Here’s a look at the tea leaves that lead these analysts to believe the pipeline will be a “go.”
And here’s hoping their predictions are right.
- While the president did not mention the pipeline, he did mention his “all of the above” energy strategy. And he also pointed with pride to the prospect of U.S. energy independence, which is near in large part because of fracking.
And both of those points represent snubs of environmentalists, who oppose both fracking and energy strategies (such as “all of the above”) that rely heavily on fossil fuels.
“To be sure, the president reiterated his commitment to addressing climate change through executive action,” West wrote in a report, which was quoted by the Edmonton (Alb.) Journal.
“Yet, Obama’s focus on the economic and energy independence benefits of domestic oil and gas production was much more prominent — suggesting that his administration will continue to take an accommodative regulatory stance toward shale development.”
And as a result, “the decision not to reference Keystone doesn’t affect Eurasia Group’s continuing belief the pipeline project will ultimately be approved.”
- Yes, the president said “climate change is a fact,” noted Chip Register, managing director of Sapient Global Markets, a capital- and commodity-markets consulting firm, in a Forbes.com column.
But the president also “extolled the virtues of the country’s rising energy independence and booming natural gas production,” as noted above.
“So, where is the mind of the ‘greenest President in history’ on this important topic?” Register asked.
“That’s simple. Right now it is focused on places like Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia and other energy-sensitive states, where Senate Democrats are in danger of losing their seats.”
“The president knows that in order to save the Senate, and his legacy, he must go against the majority of his party to save a critical minority of senators who are standing for reelection in states where Keystone and energy means jobs, money and most importantly, votes.
“If his party fails to hold the Senate, politics in Washington will change violently and not in a good way for a president seeking to press his agenda. …
“More important forces are at play than permitting a 1,200 mile pipeline that has many undeniable benefits and poses few problems for anyone other than a single interest group buried deep in his support base. The political math just isn’t stacking up well for Keystone opponents.”
- Again, why the silence?
“A senior administration official said the president viewed the issue as one that had become disproportionately symbolic and super-charged for both sides,” Reuters reported.
“He does not believe it is the job creator that its backers suggest or the environmental nemesis that its objectors fear, the official said.”
That sounds like a president who’s leaning toward pragmatism. And assuming the State Department’s review echoes the department’s earlier findings of “no significant impact” on the environment, then pragmatism — meaning, approval — is likely to carry the day.