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Anti-pipe folks say he's just "kicking the can" to boost election hopes, pipe supporters say he's killing jobs

In one fell swoop the President of the United States (POTUS) Barack Obama managed to infuriate Canadians and Republican U.S. politicians alike.  Those are typically mutually exclusive feats, but his decision to bow to activist pressure and shelve the development of a critical oil pipeline is drawing criticism from both sides.

I. To Oil Sand, or Not to Oil Sand, That is the Question

Dubbed the Keystone XL pipeline, the pipe in question was supposed to stretch 1,700 miles across the U.S. plains, transporting process oil sands crude -- a low to mid-grade crude to U.S. refineries in Texas for procesing into fuel (the initial removal of sand would occur at local facilities in Alberta). 

Currently the Alberta tar sands are underutilized due to insufficient refining capacity.  Meanwhile refineries in Texas sit idle due to insufficient domestic oil supplies.  The pipeline would have remedied both problems, pumping the equivalent of 700,000 barrels a day (249.2m barrels a year) into the U.S. market.  

The U.S. uses 19.15m barrels/day, so the new supply would offer approximately 3.7 percent of the domestic demand.  While that may sound trivial, it would allow the U.S. to potentially entirely drop one of its more hostile sources of foreign oil, such as Venezuela (806,000 barrels/day) or Iraq (637,000 barrels/day).

Aside from the direct savings in life and financials stability that could yield, the pipeline also offered more benefits.  According various studies the construction would create between 5,000 and 20,000 jobs.  It would also give $5B USD in new tax revenue.

Iraq Militants
The pipeline could completely eliminate American dependence on volatile Iraqi oil, a dependence that has cost the lives of many American servicepeople. [Image Source: Dalje]

Like everything in the world, though, there was a perceived downside for these gains.  First, the pipeline would likely cross through personal property dropping local value.  Second, it could potentially elevate local risks of toxic oil spills -- a major public fear in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Last, but not least oil sands require a more intensive separation process than standard oil.  The cost of getting all that sand out is a 10 to 30 percent emissions hike in greenhouse gases [source].  As you might guess, the amount of emissions is tied to the cost of the refining process, so the final number would like be closer to a 30 percent increase, than the lower estimate.

However, that emissions hike occurs largely at the extraction level, meaning that as long as Alberta finds someone to sell/ship its crude to, the emissions hit will be taken, regardless of whether that someone happens to be the U.S.  It's unclear whether the pipelines environmentalist adversaries realize this and are just morally opposed to being involved.

Recent studies have shown that in the last decade global temperatures flatlined, even as greenhouse gas emission continued to rise.  Yet many environmentalists and their powerful political allies remain convinced that the long-term trend will be continued warming.  Many of these parties predict a doomsday "runaway warming" scenario, in which soaring temperature amount to mass humans deaths.

Groups like, Bill McKibben, Bold Nebraska's Jane Kleeb, and Friends of the Earth decried the potential environmental (mostly global warming) impact of the pipeline and threatened to drop support for President Obama if the project was granted a speedy approval.  If these groups sound familiar, they're among those who attacked the POTUS on his support of modern nuclear power -- pressure that the President Obama caved to in the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident.

Further threats to the project came from the Republican-controlled Nebraska State Senate, which looked to take legal action [PDF] to block the pipeline.  The state senators were upset about the oil pipe crossing the state's key water supply (aquifer).

It didn't help that the State Department received a complaint [PDF] that the pipe operator TransCanada (TSE:TRP) -- the pipeline company -- had a business relationship with the "independent" contractor hired by the State Department to conduct the review.  The pipeline supporters saw their attacks on the President regarding insider actions with "green" firms like Solyndra turned back on them.

Reports of robocalls erroneously indicating public support also have been circulating around the blogosphere, damaging the momentum for approval.

II. POTUS Caves to Pipe Critics, "Kicks the Can" to 2013

As an apparent result of these cumulative protests the Obama administration has punted the approval process two years out.  The State Department announced this week, that approval "could be completed as early as the first quarter of 2013."

The key words there are "could" and "2013".  The State Department primarily blames the Nebraska state government, commenting, "Given the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department has determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska."

But it's seems likely the decision also had something to do with the Obama administration fearing the loss of votes in the upcoming 2012 presidential elections.

President Obama faced enormous pressure, even from his own staff.  Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu (Ph.D) was reportedly fearful that the project would kill alternative energy jobs and investment.  He pointed to a Cornell University study, which claimed that the project would result in net job loss due to a negative impact on the alternative energy sector.

Cornell Report
A Cornell University report broke with most analyses, claiming the pipe would cost jobs.
[Image Source: Cornell University]

III. Obama Receives Most of the Punishment, Little of the Praise for Choice

Ironically the move is earning the President less support than he may have hoped.  While Daniel Kessler, spokesperson with Tar Sands Action, commented, "This is a major victory.  It's a testament to the thousands of people who came out to protest in the streets, and we think the president responded to that," other critics scoffed at the decision.

Glenn Hurowitz, a senior fellow at the activist think tank Center for International Policy, writes in a piece in The Huffington Post, "This is an extraordinary achievement for the thousands of grassroots activists... [but] I'm a little dismayed at suggestions that this kick-the-can decision means environmentalists will enthusiastically back President Obama in 2012. Is the price of an environmentalist's vote a year's delay on environmental catastrophe? Excuse me, no."

Meanwhile opponents are pointing their barbs primarily at Obama, overlooking the activist and local political action.  Writes American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard, "This decision is deeply disappointing and troubling.  Whether it will help the president retain his job is unclear, but it will cost thousands of shovel-ready opportunities for American workers."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was even more pointed commenting, "More than 20,000 new American jobs have just been sacrificed in the name of political expediency. By punting on this project, the president has made clear that campaign politics are driving U.S. policy decisions -- at the expense of American jobs."

In short, as with many of his recent actions President Obama finds himself receiving most of the punishment, but little of the praise for actions he set in motion.  In trying to walk the tightrope of pleasing both sides, he has badly slipped -- many anti-pipe advocates are reprimanding the President for merely shelving rather than killing the decision, while the pipe's supporters are attacking the President for shelving the product.

President Obama is sad
President Obama faces criticism from all sides for the way he punted on the pipeline approval. [Image Source: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images]

TransCanada is disappointed, but hasn't given up on the pipe.  It's sunk $1.7B USD into steel, which will now sit in warehouses for two more years.  Company president and CEO Russ Girling optimistically comments, "We remain confident Keystone XL will ultimately be approved.  This project is too important to the U.S. economy, the Canadian economy and the national interest of the United States for it not to proceed."

One poll [source] found 85 percent of Americans to strongly or moderately agree with taking advantage of oil sands.  The poll was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, but it was conducted by the respected Harris Interactive agnostic metrics firm.  If those numbers are even close to reality, the president may be in trouble should he be pitted against a strongly pro-oil sands candidate like Ron Paul.

If the U.S. chooses not process Alberta's oil, there's already someone stepping up to the plate to take its place -- China.  It's looking to pour billions to building an alternate pipeline to west coast of Canada for affordable shipping to Asia.  The only thing standing in its way?  You guessed it -- local property holders and environmentalists in western Canada -- who are apparently just as eager to block the project as their American counterparts.

Sources: The U.S. State Department, CNN Money, The Huffington Post,

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RE: All I can say is
By JasonMick on 11/11/2011 6:30:00 PM , Rating: 2
Foolish. Such a foolish decision.

Yep, if alternative energy can only stand by squelching domestic oil production is it worth it?

Republicans take note: your Nebraskan state government colleagues have contributed to this as much as anyone.

All I can say is that there's only one candidate who even stands a shred of chance who, to quote Jimmy McMillan, isn't "Playing the silly game."

Ron Paul would never make this kind of decision.

Most Americans today are increasingly libertarian (social liberals, fiscal conservatives) in philosophy....


...but feel compelled to vote for a candidate in one of the two mainstream parties out of practicality. Well here's your chance to vote for a social liberal and fiscal conservative.


And for those haters who say he's anti-abortion, etc. you're misinformed. Some issues he supports putting in the hands of states. So it's essentially a non-issue given that even conservative South Dakota, North Dakota, Mississippi recently voted down an abortion ban.

And hey, I personally have no problem with early abortions aside from the medical risks and support a woman's right to choose in my state, but I'm fine with Paul's philosophy:

If voters in a state are too oblivious to realize that 75-80 percent of fertilized eggs DIE ON THEIR OWN and that the brain is essentially on par with a minnow until the period of rapid growth which occurs roughly 6 months in, I say hey, you can't stop stupid. Let uneducated states find their own way.


RE: All I can say is
By ipay on 11/11/2011 7:29:59 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry Jason, but Ron Paul stands ZERO chance of ever becoming president. I don't care if Obama started randomly insulting strangers on national TV during the debates - Ron Paul still wouldn't win.

RE: All I can say is
By FITCamaro on 11/11/11, Rating: -1
RE: All I can say is
By JasonMick on 11/11/2011 11:46:21 PM , Rating: 5
Oh I'd elect Ron Paul over Obama even if he tried to assassinate Obama on live television.

Wow wow wow, that's just too much. I can see saying you want Obama out of office, but suggesting you'd support someone attempting to murder him -- even in jest? That's just too nuts.

I didn't like much of Bush Jr.'s policies and I'm finding I don't like much of Obama's policies either. But I wouldn't wish death on either of them or any U.S. President ever no matter what political party. Anyone who tried to murder a U.S. president, no matter how good or bad a president you or I think they are, should be thrown in jail to rot for those actions.

Don't like Obama? Don't like Romney? Don't like George W. Bush? How about taking a bit of responsibility and recognizing that it's Americans who have allowed this political system to take root -- a system where the two parties essentially are only different in superficial political pandering, for the most part, while bending over backwards to their corporate masters of choice who paid their way into office.

Think American politicians are representing YOU when nearly half the money that it takes to get them elected is coming from corporations? No way. They're looking out for their big donors, for the most part, because the U.S. has some of the most lax campaign finance laws in the developed world.

Since when did corporations get to vote? There's a very simple solution. Ban corporate contributions at a party level; make it a zero-tolerance criminal offense for any candidate accepting corporate campaign contributions (e.g. bribes) from making decisions directly effecting that company's business sector; and last but not least make it a criminal offense for fiscal officers at any corporation found funneling money through the system.

With that simple law, you're still allowing corporate contributions, assuming they really believe in the candidate and aren't just looking to buy a favor. Of course, don't hold your breath about many corporations donating in such an atmosphere -- they're not in the business of giving away money; they pay to get a bigger payout in return, often at the expense of the taxpayer.

But returning to the topic of the POTUS, the suggestion of supporting his murder is reprehensible, no matter how much corporate money he's taking or how much public health care he's promising.

But I'd rather have a president who supports the idea of the US being the dominant nation in the world.

And yet the U.S. armed forces donate more to Ron Paul than any other candidate. <sarcasm>I'm sure they're doing that because they're hoping for the U.S. to lose its dominance?</sarcasm>

Or did you think that maybe the U.S. military supports Ron Paul's plan because it makes sense financially and safeguards the U.S.?

You can exercise international dominance far more cheaply without foreign military bases (occupying forces, in effect)and without funneling weapons to insurgents.

When Ron Paul talks about foreign policy change, he's talking about stopping things like the U.S. giving weapons to Libyan insurgents (along with the rest of NATO). We poured weapons on the region, taking on the role of arms dealer in a local conflict (while turning our back on other equally tragic murderous abuses of power like Syria). Now we're HOPING those weapons get returned to us:

Whoops, thanks Obama.

If Ron Paul's philosophy was applied in the 1980s, the U.S. would never have funneled the weapons to Iraq that Saddam Hussein used to kill his own people and invade Kuwait:

To be fair East Germany (largely ex-Nazi corporations) and the UK (who was at the game of hegemony long before modern America) gave Iraq MORE weapons than we did. But our meddling certainly made the situation worse for ourselves and others in the future.

Likewise, we won't know the impact of handing weapons like candy to the Libyan insurgents, but why take the risk in the first place?

As for the issue of military bases and occupying forces, Britain is the only major power to maintain anywhere close to the number of permanent foreign bases as us.

Is that really who we want to model our nation after -- a faded colonial empire whose government to this day idolizes a monarchy?

And what's the use of these occupying bases? Is it worth spending billions to maintain them, when we don't have enough money to pay our bills at home and are getting our government's credit rating downgraded?

The answer is a resounding no. If the nuclear community condoned us crushing a non-nuclear foreign nation we could do it with or without the costly foreign military bases.

Heck, Britain proved that point for us:

It crushed Argentina's less technologically advanced forces almost entirely using troops shipped from the homeland.

We could do the same if our government and the American people ever felt it absolutely necessary.

In the meantime we'd avoid the massive cost of maintaining bases overseas that are only sporadically used.

To give a practical analogy, it'd be like if I only travel to San Antonio, Texas once ever 10 years for a story, it'd make more sense to rent a car and hotel room rather than buying a house and a car and having to periodically take trips to maintain them in hopes that the time might someday come for me to use them.

I think Ron Paul's argument has a lot of logic behind it.
Rather than one hiding behind a fence hoping nothing bad ever happens and then trying to ignore it when it does.

A final comment. A draw down in foreign troop deployment and sending weapons to foreign conflicts is not "hiding". Anyone who's taken martial arts can tell you that the true definition of strength is learning to defend yourself, not to attack.

That's the role of a military in the modern era -- to defend you. You don't have to occupy foreign regions to defend yourself. Iraq, Pakistan, and Libya aren't going to invade us. And if we practice good police work, intelligence gathering, and border control even their craziest people won't stand a threat to us in terms of domestic terrorism.

RE: All I can say is
By Reclaimer77 on 11/12/11, Rating: -1
RE: All I can say is
By FITCamaro on 11/13/2011 8:49:50 AM , Rating: 1
Fast & Furious has resulted in the deaths of dozens if not more. Not 6-7. 6-7 US citizens sure. But in Mexico, the drug cartels are quite happy with the guns the Obama administration sold them and are using them to kill anyone who speaks out against them.

And thank you for breathing a sense of reason into my last post. Liberal groups burned Bush in effigy on many occasions and publicly shouted they hoped he died. Did the vast majority of the media care? Nope. "Right to free speech" it was called.

RE: All I can say is
By FITCamaro on 11/11/11, Rating: -1
RE: All I can say is
By JasonMick on 11/11/2011 9:35:59 PM , Rating: 4
I mean hell he called going after and killing Bin Laden a bad idea.

Before you give people the wrong idea, let's be clear what he ACTUALLY said.

He said that he would have taken the information to Pakistan and demanded they capture OBL. His comment left it unclear whether OBL would then be handed to U.S. custody or locally tried, but either way he'd almost certainly receive the death penalty in court.

Obviously the criticism here is that Pakistan could have turned its back on billions in foreign aid and let OBL escape.

We all know Obama got the job done when it comes to OBL (or more aptly the U.S. special forces following his commands got the job done ^_^). Would Ron Paul's approach have worked? No one can say.

But he did want OBL tried and executed, if you've listened to his past comments.

The last time our nation followed a foreign policy like his we had World War 2.

Hey, hey American isolationism didn't cause WWII, though it might have prolonged it (and saved American lives in the process). What really bred WWII was Germany's economic collapse (bred by punitive reparations demands -- i.e. looting -- imposed on Germany by Britain and France to the helpless indignation of the U.S.) that allowed nationalists to take over in Germany. In Japan the root cause was arguably the combination of racism against the Japanese (being denied entry into the League of Nations, resources -- again Britain and France were the prime suspects here) combined with the long latent Japanese nationalist tradition finally given super powers by its industrial revolution at the turn of the century.

Nobody created the evil that was Nazi Germany in an ultimate sense but Adolf Hitler and his henchman, but they would never have been able to take hold (nor would Tojo and Japanese ultranationalists) were it not for the actions of Britain and France -- among other significant factors.

Should the U.S. have intervened sooner? Who knows. It might have saved some lives (namely EUROPEAN lives) at the cost of other lives (namely AMERICAN lives). As it was Britain and Germany's new adversary Russia deflected the brunt of the German might, while the U.S. waged what essentially a separate war with Japan. Once that war was wrapping up (after the victories of 1943), we stormed into Germany in June 1944 and wrapped up, with the help of our European allies.

I fail to see how the U.S. in virtually any major way caused WW II (which seems to be what your comment alludes to, unless that appearance was unintentional.)

I'd even go as far as to say the U.S. leadership was smart to stay out of the conflict when the Nazis were at their strongest -- from 1939-1941 ; and were smart staying out of Europe from 1941-1944 when we were fighting a close war in the Pacific with Japan. American lives were saved by this approach.

It's easy to say we should have invade Germany pro-actively before 1939, but at the time no one know the atrocities the Nazis were breeding and Germany was merely embroiled in what appeared to be a local conflict (with Poland) -- not uncommon in European history.

Remember, America was funnelling weapons to Britain and French resistance throughout the war during its so-called "isolationism" -- it just wasn't risking American lives until the time was right.
Ron Paul will never be a serious candidate because of all his insanely bad ideas. Not for lack of good ones.

I'd say the most insanely bad idea is sticking to the current broken system as the country goes down the tubes. But I agree no one is perfect and some of his ideas would inevitably not work out. But at least he's trying to think up creative new solutions and ditching the status quo.

AKA, the baby has already implanted itself in the uterus and is a living, breathing person

Actually rudimentary lungs form four weeks after blastocyte implantation (reread your literature).

Blastocytes implant typically with 7-12 days of fertilization [1]. Lungs grow 36-42 days after fertilization [1].

[1] William J. Larsen (2001). Human embryology. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

I'm sure you meant "living" in an emotional sense, seeing as the earliest ever survival was of a 21 week and five day old fetus (month 4 1/2):

I'd say for the first three months (when most abortions occur) it's hard to argue the baby is alive as the fetus would stand no chances of surviving and successfully maturing without WILD advances in modern medicine.

As for killing puppies, we kill justify killing animals all the time. A 1 month old fetus -- as I point out above -- is by no means a full fledged human. Maybe you can argue that killing any being of your own genetic makeup is criminal, but then that's an argument against birth control as well, then you're killing gametes with your genetic "stuff".

And claiming killing a fetus after fertilization is murdering a human is also an argument that a vast number of women should be tried for making decisions (e.g. diet etc.) that contribute to 80 percent fetal death rate -- much of which occurs before the woman realizes she's pregnant (e.g. Reckless Homocide). Heck if that was your philosophy you'd have to support government probing of every sexually active woman's uterus for signs of whether her actions might be leading to death of her fetus and accidental murder.

By your standard a significant portion of women who never have an abortion are accidental murderers without even knowing it, for accidentally making decisions that killed their unborn fertilized eggs (that night at the gym when the blastocyte shook lose -- you murdered it!).

If you accept killing gametes, you're killing potential undeveloped future humans. At 1 month you still are killing an undeveloped future human, only from two humans now.

I would support a law that allowed the father to block early stage abortions, assuming the father was not facing rape charges re: the pregnancy. Under such a law the father could demand that a fetus be tested (once technology allows) and that abortions before 3 months be disallowed if the genetic material matches and he doesn't approve of the abortion (hey, it's his baby too).

Sadly the tech isn't there (to my knowledge) to support such an approach.

I would also support a ban on abortions after 3 months, except in the case of the threat of maternal death. In the case where the baby cannot be delivered and the mother will die without abortive surgery (extremely rare), this is essentially akin to other examples of doctors choosing to make medical decisions that may take a life (e.g. separating conjoined twins).

But honestly I think that it's extremely hard to argue the fetus is living or human (in the sense of a born human) in the first three months, any more than you can argue that sperm and eggs are tiny humans.

After three months, fine, ban away, I'd be behind you on that from a biological/scientific perspective.

But if you're talking bans on early abortion, you're essentially looking to impose your religious views on others -- which aren't even shared among all members of any given faith I might add -- at the cost of human freedom. There's no scientific evidence, one more time, that shows a 1 month old fetus could survive ex-situ.

RE: All I can say is
By Reclaimer77 on 11/12/11, Rating: 0
RE: All I can say is
By thurston2 on 11/12/11, Rating: 0
RE: All I can say is
By Dorkyman on 11/13/2011 6:55:14 PM , Rating: 2
Oooh, I love it when people use the F-word to show that they REALLY REALLY mean it.

RE: All I can say is
By Skywalker123 on 11/15/2011 10:25:54 PM , Rating: 1
You're right,we caused WWII because of our stupid foreign policies, like getting involved in WWI and embargoing Japan, provoking them to attack us.

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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