Countless environmental activists invested considerable time and energy into defeating the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. As of this afternoon, they've succeeded -- President Obama has scrapped the project.
The president, citing concerns about the impact on the environment and a political climate that overly-hyped the pipeline's benefit, said the effort "would not serve the interests of the United States." "While our politics have been consumed with whether this pipeline would increase jobs and lower gas prices, we have increased jobs and lowered gas prices," Obama said.
The announcement doesn't come as too big of a surprise. Earlier this year, congressional Republicans made approval of the Keystone pipeline one of their top legislative priorities of the year -- in the Senate, GOP lawmakers gave it the S. 1 bill number, intended to help capture its significance to them -- putting a bill on the president's desk in February to force his hand and move the project forward. Obama vetoed it.
As we discussed at the time, at issue is a proposal to build a pipeline to transport oil, extracted from tar sands, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Critics have said the tar-sands process is environmentally hazardous, which is true. They’ve said the project would have no real impact on already low gas prices, which is also true. And they’ve said Keystone would be largely meaningless to the U.S. unemployment rate, which is already approaching an eight-year low, and which, once again, is completely true.
And on the other side of the aisle, Republicans have an equally straightforward rejoinder: they really, really, really like this project. Why? Because they really, really, really do.
Let’s again acknowledge what too often goes unsaid: for Republicans, the Keystone XL pipeline stopped being about the Keystone XL pipeline quite a while ago. It’s just one oil project -- one that would have no discernible positive effect on anything, except maybe the economy in western Canada (not that I have anything against western Canada’s economy).
Rather, Keystone has become a totem of sorts. Its actual value has been rendered meaningless, replaced with post-policy symbolic value that overrides every other consideration. Indeed, the more Democrats and environmentalists told Republicans this is a bad idea, the more Republicans convinced themselves this was The Most Important Project In The World, probably because it was ideologically satisfying.
It's a safe bet the GOP leaders on Capitol Hill and the Republican presidential candidates will scream bloody murder this afternoon, insisting the Obama White House is ... I don't know ... indifferent to job creation or something.
But let's not forget that an independent State Department study found that the project would create about 35 permanent, full-time American jobs -- roughly what we’d see from “opening a new Denny’s franchise.” There would be far more temporary jobs associated with Keystone, but they’d come and go fairly quickly.
There was no real, coherent reason to embrace the project. The president obviously made the right call.
Rachel had a report earlier this week on Keystone, highlighting developments that helped set the stage for today's announcement.