Barack Obama's Delay of Keystone XL Is Good for His 2012 Chances


The decision to move forward with TransCanada’s Keystone XL crude oil pipeline should have been easy. Earlier last year, “Keystone XL” was just a buzzword among a select few. It would create thousands of new construction jobs and provide lower cost shipping conditions in Nebraska’s booming oil production sector. Even more important, it would set precedent for North American infrastructure projects free from political bungling.

The State Department’s (read: President Barack Obama’s) decision in November to delay approval of the project until 2013 is a blatant political move stamped with the word “reelection.” On Wednesday, Obama again made a critical move on the matter, rejecting calls from House GOP members to make a more timely decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.  

For Obama and his 2012 campaign, it was the right decision.

After all, the president campaigned on four pillars: the financial crisis, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, universal health care, and the environment. Though obviously debatable, he’s only truly made good on one of those promises (ending the wars), perhaps two if we are lenient (health care).

If Obama was looking for a nod of approval from environmentalists, he got it with his November decision. The pipeline’s opponents, big names like Robert Redford, showered him with praise after the decision to halt the project. The delay came in the face of concern over the pipeline’s route, which would go directly through the Ogallala aquifer, which provides drinking water to 1.5 million people.

Let’s be honest. It hasn’t been a good year for the environmental Obama supporters. To be fair, Obama has been praised for implementing more rigid environmental standards for cars and contributing $90 billion in loans for research and development for renewable power sources. However, he has been criticized for his failure to pass cap-and-trade legislation to decrease carbon emissions, his approval to renew offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as his September decision to override the EPA’s call for more rigorous smog standards.

The past four years have been disenchanting for Obama supporters. The president has made too many concessions to the Republicans in the name of a bipartisan ideology that just has not come to fruition. It is no secret Obama struggles to pass anything through Congress, including a 2011 jobs bill, his budget recommendations, and more.

In the face of a grueling reelection season, the president’s halting of the Keystone XL pipeline, regardless of its permanency, represents a nod in the direction of his political base. This move should not be overestimated. The Republican ticket is anything but clear or strong, and a sizable voter base of previous Obama supporters remains unconvinced of either party. The delay of the pipeline in the face of fierce opposition from environmentalists and the American people is a tangible win for those that resolutely campaigned and believed in the “Yes We Can” rhetoric of 2008.

Photo Credit: tarsandsaction