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What’s the Deal with the Keystone Pipeline?

Updated on November 20, 2014

Will President Obama Veto the Next Keystone XL Pipeline Bill?

The Keystone XL Pipeline has become the latest battleground for President Obama and the Republican-controlled House. At this time, Keystone is nothing more than a ‘pipe dream’ for conservatives and a handful of Congressional Democrats. The construction of the Keystone Pipeline will bring tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Proponents of this initiative claim that an estimated 42,000 jobs will be created and that America’s energy independence will be bolstered by partnering with Canada. On the other side, the majority of Democrats and environmentalists are deeply concerned about the impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline on greenhouse gas emissions and its impact on climate change. The arguments for and against Keystone have created sharp divisions between liberals and conservatives, but an imminent showdown is looming. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) does not support the bill for fear of what it will do to the environment.

GOP Gains Boost Momentum for Passage of Keystone Pipeline Bill

With both the House and Senate soon to be under Republican control, President Obama is treading thin ice. People want the economy to improve and they’re not swayed by the fluffy speeches of President Obama about how well the economy is doing. The average middle class American family is struggling and the president has been more concerned with his legacy than leading his country, at least in their opinion. The recent midterms were a clear indictment of Obama’s policies and the unprecedented protest vote sent a thunderous message to the Oval Office: Obama’s policies are not working and people are tired of the dysfunction in Washington DC. The liberal media for its part has downplayed the results of the midterms by claiming that mainly white middle-aged men voted and the Democrat base was not sufficiently inspired to come out and vote. Had the result been the opposite, the Dems would have claimed populist support for Obama’s policies. However, with Obama in Myanmar it’s not yet clear what will become of this ninth attempt to get the Keystone Pipeline Bill to the president’s desk for approval.

The Keystone Pipeline Explained

Obama Cites Legislative Processes as Reason for Stalled Bill

The Louisiana Senate race took center stage for Democrats as embattled incumbent Mary Landrieu is seeking to break ranks with Obama on this issue. Since the runoff is slated for January, she is eager to win support of the measure in the Senate to get herself re-elected. Obama is nonplussed by all the political jockeying for position. From his perspective, he is of the opinion that there is an ongoing legal process that needs to be completed in Nebraska before anything can happen with Keystone. At this juncture, the route of the pipeline remains unknown. The environmentalists are dead-set against the idea on multiple fronts. They believe that by extracting oil sands from Canada, toxic emissions will increase and climate change will result. The reason that the Keystone Pipeline requires Obama’s signature is that it is an international financial transaction. Pundits are expecting President Obama to look more carefully at this next bill, but ultimately the consensus is that it will be vetoed.

If President Obama’s words are anything to go by, a veto is the likely outcome: “Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn't have an impact on US gas prices.” Obama has intimated that he is more interested in tapping into American natural resources, not exploiting Canada’s for no apparent benefit to the US.

From the House to the Senate

The general perception among naysayers is that the Keystone XL Pipeline will not create permanent US jobs. In fact, the 42,000 figure cited by conservatives is merely a temporary figure while the pipeline is being built. Once it reaches operating capacity, less than 40 full-time jobs will be required to manage the pipeline across the US. The ninth bill approved by the House managed to garner 252 votes in favour and 161 against. As expected, all Republicans voted for the bill and 31 Democrats got on board too. The bill will now move to the Senate where it needs to be passed in order for it to arrive on the president’s desk. The Senate under Harry Reid has successfully blocked the passage of Keystone XL Pipeline bills multiple times. Even now, with Dems under immense pressure to act with Republicans, the bill is not a sure thing.

Republicans and Dems supporting the measure are still 1 vote away from the required 60 votes to overturn a filibuster. Again, what’s happening in Louisiana may prove critical to what ends up happening in the Senate on Tuesday the 18 November. Since Mary Landrieu is in the political fight of her life against Rep. Bill Cassidy, she is backing this measure. At last count, there are 59 votes in the Senate – that’s 1 shy - to provide a filibuster proof passage of the Keystone XL Pipeline bill. The latest Democrat to back the bill is Delaware Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado. In spite of what happens in the lame duck session up ahead, when Mitch McConnell assumes the rank of Senate Majority Leader in January, the GOP will have a filibuster-proof majority to put the bill on the president’s desk.

Landrieu Calls for Vote on Keystone Pipeline

Environmentalists Fight against Keystone XL Pipeline

Environmental groups have been lobbying hard to get President Obama not to agree on any measures that end up passing Keystone legislation. Among the many groups sending a strong message to Obama are Greenpeace USA, MoveOn.org, 350.org, League of Conservation of Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The thrust of their argument is that that energy-intensive crude oil production will be boosted. And this will have damaging effects on the climate. The League of Conservation of Voters president Gene Karpinski has promised civil disobedience if Obama okays the bill. In response to the environmentalists, Obama has tasked his Secretary of State with getting Canada to reduce emissions at the source. The environmentalists believe that if the project gets the green light, it would be the equivalent of adding 38 million cars’ pollution into the atmosphere and that’s the equivalent of 51 coal-fired power plants. With so many special interest groups involved, President Obama is under increasing pressure to make a decision. But the country will be watching to see just how much give and take President Obama has in him. If the past is anything to go by, the future does not look very promising for bipartisan deal making.

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    • OritNathanMahalal profile imageAUTHOR

      Orit Nathan Mahalal 

      3 years ago from Cyprus

      I just saw that, too late though... I guess we can still discuss if it was a good idea anyway...

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      3 years ago from North Texas

      The Keystone Pipeline was defeated (barely) in the Senate day before yesterday. Unless it's resurrected in January when the new Congress is sworn in, it's dead. :)

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