Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jockeying For The Keystone Battles

While there are many reasons we enjoy Paul Fell's cartoons - like today's edition with President Obama and the Keystone XL pipeline - the biggest reason is that humor can often take the edge off discussing complex powderkeg issues. Climate change and the Keystone pipeline definitely fall into that category.

We've been hearing rumors for several months now, since the President mentioned climate change in his second inaugural address, that President Obama would indeed be taking on climate change issues in his second term. As Kevin Drum noted, Obama's pick earlier this year of Gina McCarthy to head the EPA - pending Senate confirmation - was a huge clue that those rumors about the President's choice of direction indeed look to be true.

Yesterday, the New York Times published another story that gave even more credence to the idea that President Obama is indeed looking at taking on climate change by taking on big oil, big coal, and big energy in his second term, by preparing to enact new emissions limits on power plants. That story matched the speech Obama gave in Berlin on Wednesday, where he again hit the idea that if Congress would not act to curb climate change, he would.

For those people who support President Obama, and believe he truly does care about the issue of climate change, all of these are good signs that bolster their opinion of him.

There are also, however, plenty of other legitimate sources and rumors that say President Obama may just be ready to jump on board the Keystone bandwagon, and allow the pipeline to go forward - and those signs are worrying, indeed.

According to a report by Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post last week, at a recent San Francisco area fundraiser, President Obama made some private remarks expressing how politically difficult some of the decisions on climate change may actually be to implement. The President is somewhat hamstrung on all sides right now, with a Congress unwilling or unable to accomplish anything, an economy growing far too slowly, unemployment higher than most would like, and a continually growing need for more energy in America.

You can add to the President's complicated decision on this issue the conduct of companies like Transcanada, who the President would be siding with, if he choses to authorize the pipeline.

It's not just that Transcanada has been acting like a bully lately. They've also been promising the highest safety standards if the new Keystone XL pipeline is built - while at the same time choosing to use a lower grade of oil spill detectors for that pipeline. This is also in the wake of one of North America's largest environmental disasters ever, in Northern Alberta, Canada, by a company that has done a significant amount of business for and with Transcanada.

As Greg Sargent at The Plum Line noted on Wednesday, for now, the approach President Obama appears to be taking is somewhat of a  good thing. At least he's talking about climate change, energy policy, and what steps Americans can and should take to make things better. That position alone is more than most politicians of any party are taking, and far more than virtually any CEO of almost any private corporation.

What decision President Obama makes on the pipeline though, is anyone's guess. Some are sure he will allow it. Others are still insisting he won't. We have even heard rumors that should he authorize it, there are those prepared to violently attack the construction of the new pipeline.

For now, we hope this heated battle of words remains just that, words.

We also hope the President makes the right decision on this issue.