The Washington Post has a entirely reasonable editorial excoriating President Obama's politcally strategic dithering over the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline which would transport petroleum products from Canada's oilsands to U.S. Gulf coast refineries. Under pressure from environmental activists, the president has bravely decided to decide about approving the pipeline once the 2012 presidential election is over. Here's what the Post has to say:
EARLY LAST WEEK, as the Obama administration prepared to announce a delay in deciding whether to permit the construction of the Canada-U.S. Keystone XL oil pipeline, Joe Oliver, Canada's natural resources minister, was in Asia to discuss cooperation with the energy-hungry and cash-flush Chinese on extracting his nation's oil reserves. Given that China already has an $11 billion stake in Canadian oil production, Mr. Oliver should have little trouble getting the help….
Even under optimistic assumptions about greening the world economy, the United States and every other nation will demand immense amounts of oil for decades. The resulting upward pressure on oil prices provides a massive incentive to develop previously unattractive oil deposits, such as those in Alberta's tar sands. Nixing a pipeline that would bring more of that oil to U.S. refineries wouldn't cut that demand, it wouldn't shut down Canadian production, and it wouldn't make any difference to global carbon emissions…
The United States must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, from any source, and it should encourage nations such as China to lower the carbon intensity of their economies, too. Even if that happens, though, the world will continue to use oil, with all the dirty realities that entails. Rejecting Keystone XL would not change that fact. But it would help China lock up more of the world's oil production, cost infrastructure jobs in the United States and offend a reliable ally. More delay after three years of review is insult enough.
See my take here on the environmental risks of the Keystone XL and for more background on Canadian oilsands, see my dispatches from Alberta, The Man-Made Miracle of Oil from Sand, and Conflict Oil or Canadian Oil?
Whole Post editorial here.