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President Obama & TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline


President Obama

I hate politics. I hate it even more when a man I respect gets forced into pandering to the folks out there who can’t follow the truth. It’s been “leaked” that tomorrow President Obama will announce, in Cushing Oklahoma, that his administration will be doing what it can to expedite the permitting process for TransCanada to build the southern half of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. That “southern half” is the part that will be from Cushing to the Gulf Coast of Texas. In January the President denied the permit for the full pipeline, because the northern half was slated to cross the critical Ogallala Aquifer in the High Plains, and some members of the Republican Party in Congress were preparing to blackmail the President into making a quick decision… so he did, just not the one they wanted. After all, a healthy chunk of Speaker Boehner’s personal stock portfolio is directly traceable back to TransCanada.

Ogallala Aquifer - US Geological Service

Now here’s the thing. The Republicans have been going around blaming rising gas prices on the President, and that permit denial is one of the things they wave in the air – ‘Oh, if he’d just approved that pipeline we could be getting all this extra oil from Canada and our gas prices would drop.’ Unfortunately, because it’s a simple and easy to digest rationale, a good chunk of the American public believes it.

It’s a crock. First off, that oil they want to pump to the Gulf isn’t staying here once it’s refined.  Second off, it takes time to build a pipeline, so it’s not a magic bullet for lower gas prices right away. Third, there is next to nothing that the government can do to lower the price of gas or crude oil BECAUSE WE, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DO NOT OWN THE OIL BENEATH OUR FEET.

We don’t own it and we don’t drill for it. We sell leases to oil companies, most of which are foreign conglomerates, and they drill. Then they send it to refineries on the Gulf Coast, and then they ship it overseas… because Europe and Asia pay a whole lot more than we do for gas and crude. Other countries with oil fields own that oil, and in many cases have government-owned companies drilling it and refining it and selling the final products in-country. Do you really think Saudi Arabia has a gas price crisis? Ever?

Since the Republicans started on this latest obfuscation about gas prices, President Obama and the White House have been trying to explain all of this to the American people… but they don’t want to hear the truth. They want to hear that Daddy in the White House is going to wave his magic wand and make it all better. They still haven’t figured out that without the cooperation of Congress, a President really has his hands tied. And the last thing this Congress wants to do is cooperate with the President. Since taking over control of the House, the Republicans have made no bones about the first priority on their agenda: making sure that President Obama is a one-term President.

Existing and Proposed Keystone Pipelines

TransCanada Logo

So TransCanada announced last month that they are willing to go ahead with the uncontested southern portion of the pipeline, which doesn’t need approval from the Feds, as it doesn’t cross an international border. There is currently a bottleneck at Cushing because of the oil arriving from both U.S. oil fields and oil arriving from Canada via the existing TransCanada pipeline. This new southern pipeline will ease that bottleneck and serve to get more crude and oil shale product to the Gulf Coast refineries on a daily basis. Yay. We’ll pick up the temporary jobs from building it, a few permanent jobs maintaining it, a few more IF refineries add to their payrolls to process it and the oil ports will have a bit more ship traffic.

Well, that’s enough to make some easy sound bytes and that’s what the President will be doing tomorrow. About the only contribution the White House can make to ‘expediting’ the permitting process is to lean on a couple of state-level agencies to get off their asses and approve it. The job creation bit will be played up, and he’ll give up on trying to explain the realities of global oil prices to the people.

It’s sad that the realities of election politics are prompting him to give up on teaching the American people about the new global economy we are a part of. We need to understand how the Arab Spring and the growth of the Indian and Chinese economies affect us. We should have had it shoved down our throats that Osama Bin Laden’s most ambitious plans for anti-American terrorism would have attacked our economy. We should understand that the conspicuous consumption of Americans is something unique to us, and it’s not really a good thing. I’m sorry, but no one outside of the military really needs to be driving a Hummer and sucking down all that gas. If you need that 4-wheel drive, get a Jeep. If you need that level of “protection”, move.

Bright Shiny Gas Pumps

Okay, I’ll climb down from that soapbox.

President Obama, on the issue of gasoline prices, is being forced to pander to the ignorant, and tomorrow the Republicans will count coup. They will have made him stoop to their level, and that is incredibly disappointing.



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