As political leaders go, Hillary Clinton has always been fairly adept at dodging the questions she doesn’t want to answer, but the Keystone XL pipeline has posed a greater challenge than most.
Over the summer, for example, the Democratic candidate said of the project, “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question. This is President Obama’s decision and I’m not going to second-guess him.”
This, of course, wasn’t a sustainable posture. Last week, Clinton effectively announced fair warning. “I have been waiting for the administration to make a decision. I thought I owed them that,” Clinton said in New Hampshire. “I can’t wait too much longer. I am putting the White House on notice. I am going to tell you what I think soon.”
Soon, in this case, is today. MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald reported this afternoon:
Clinton made good on the promise she delivered last week to finally take a public position on the pipeline “soon,” on whose fate the Obama administration has dragged its feet deciding.“I oppose it,” Clinton said in response to a question on the pipeline while campaigning in Iowa Tuesday. “I oppose it because I don’t think, I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change.”
There’s no wiggle-room here. If environmental activists were concerned Clinton might hedge, or look for a way to change her mind later, today’s comments should put those fears to rest.
To appreciate the full context, here’s a transcript of today’s exchange:
QUESTION: Hi my name is Cleo, I’m a sophomore at Drake University and I am deeply concerned about what climate change means for my future, and I know that the Keystone XL pipeline will worsen that climate change. It’s really important for me to know where our next president will stand on that issue and you’ve said in recent weeks that you do have an opinion on Keystone XL, and I was wondering if you could tell us what that is.
CLINTON: Yes I will. because as I said, I was in a unique position, having been secretary of state, having started this process and not wanting to interfere with the ongoing decision making that both the president and Secretary Kerry have to do in order to make whatever the final decision might be. I thought this would be decided by now and therefore I could tell you whether I agreed or I disagreed. But it hasn’t been decided and I feel now I’ve got a responsibility to you and other voters who ask me about this. And I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is, a distraction from there important work we have to do to combat climate change and unfortunately from my perspective one that interferes with our ability to move forward to deal with all the other issues.
Therefore I oppose it and I oppose it because I don’t think (applause) I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change. I will be rolling out in a few days my plan for a North American approach to fighting climate change and clean energy because for me, we need to be transitioning from fossil fuels – I know it will take time – to clean renewable energy. That’s why I led with my two big proposals namely, I want to see us by the end of my first term have installed a half a billion more solar panels and by the end of my second term, have enough clean power to run all the homes in America.
And when I go around and talk about this, I want to tell all of the Iowans, I brag on you all. Because a lot of people say, “How can we do that? How can we transition from fossil fuel to clean energy?” I say, ‘You know, Iowa is getting 30 percent of its electricity now from clean energy” (applause) so I do believe there is a lot of work to be done. We already have a lot of pipelines that are leaking! They need to be repaired! They are dangerous! They are leaking methane, they are at risk of causing damage. I want to put thousands of Americans to work who are not only going to be fixing those old pipelines but also we’ve got rail cars transporting oil and I want to those railcars and the rail beds and the rail tracks they’re on to be repaired. So, the grid has to be updated in order for it to be more accessible to clean and renewable energy. We’ve got a lot of work to do. A lot more jobs – from my perspective – on a North American clean energy agenda than you would ever get from just one pipeline crossing the border. So let’s do this because it’s the right thing, (applause) to move beyond it, and to make it possible for us to have a much more effective system that will accelerate the use of clean renewable energy.