Robert Samuelson: Obama’s Keystone Decision is an “Act of National Insanity”; Updated: Obama Latest Bogeymen: “Secretive Oil Billionaires”

Obama’s indefensible decision to reject an increased supply of energy from our reliable ally north of the border is impossible for anyone interested in America’s energy security to comprehend. Even some of Obama’s loudest cheerleaders in the mainstream media are left scratching their heads and find it impossible to defend him on this one.  The Washington Post Editorial Board, for example, finds Obama’s excuse for scuttling the vital energy project to be purely political and without substance:

We almost hope this was a political call because, on the substance, there should be no question. Without the pipeline, Canada would still export its bitumen — with long-term trends in the global market, it’s far too valuable to keep in the ground — but it would go to China. And, as a State Department report found, U.S. refineries would still import low-quality crude — just from the Middle East. Stopping the pipeline, then, wouldn’t do anything to reduce global warming, but it would almost certainly require more oil to be transported across oceans in tankers.

Environmentalists and Nebraska politicians say that the route TransCanada proposed might threaten the state’s ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region. But TransCanada has been willing to tweak the route, in consultation with Nebraska officials, even though a government analysis last year concluded that the original one would have “limited adverse environmental impacts.” Surely the Obama administration didn’t have to declare the whole project contrary to the national interest — that’s the standard State was supposed to apply — and force the company to start all over again.

Environmentalists go on to argue that some of the fuel U.S. refineries produce from Canada’s bitumen might be exported elsewhere. But even if that’s true, why force those refineries to obtain their crude from farther away? Anti-Keystone activists insist that building the pipeline will raise gas prices in the Midwest. But shouldn’t environmentalists want that? Finally, pipeline skeptics dispute the estimates of the number of jobs that the project would create. But, clearly, constructing the pipeline would still result in job gains during a sluggish economic recovery.

You know Obama’s on thin ice when even his surrogates at the Washington Post can’t defend his policy.  Perhaps the most scathing criticism of Obama’s move from the Left I’ve read so far comes from Newwseek and Washington Post contributing editor, Robert Samuelson.  In his piece today at Real Clear Politics, he refers to Obama’s Pipeline rejection as an act of “national insanity” with no “redeeming virtues”:

President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is an act of national insanity. It isn’t often that a president makes a decision that has no redeeming virtues and — beyond the symbolism — won’t even advance the goals of the groups that demanded it. All it tells us is that Obama is so obsessed with his re-election that, through some sort of political calculus, he believes that placating his environmental supporters will improve his chances.

Aside from the political and public relations victory, environmentalists won’t get much. Stopping the pipeline won’t halt the development of tar sands, to which the Canadian government is committed; therefore, there will be little effect on global warming emissions. Indeed, Obama’s decision might add to them. If Canada builds a pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific for export to Asia, moving all that oil across the ocean by tanker will create extra emissions. There will also be the risk of added spills.

Now consider how Obama’s decision hurts the United States. For starters, it insults and antagonizes a strong ally; getting future Canadian cooperation on other issues will be harder. Next, it threatens a large source of relatively secure oil that, combined with new discoveries in the United States, could reduce (though not eliminate) our dependence on insecure foreign oil.


The big winners are the Chinese. They must be celebrating their good fortune and wondering how the crazy Americans could repudiate such a huge supply of nearby energy. There’s no guarantee that tar-sands oil will go to China; pipelines to the Pacific would have to be built. But it creates the possibility when the oil’s natural market is the United States.


By law, Obama’s decision was supposed to reflect “the national interest.” His standard was his political interest. The State Department had spent three years evaluating Keystone and appeared ready to approve the project by year-end 2011. Then the administration, citing opposition to the pipeline’s route in Nebraska, reversed course and postponed a decision to 2013 — after the election.

And this is from a columnist who’s hardly a right-wing ideologue. Samuelson and the WaPo are correct.  This is all about politics and Obama not wanting to irritate his kook-fringe base.  Obama’s own Jobs Council is on record supporting the project.  But that’s not all.  Incredibly, two of Obama’s key cabinet secretaries were on board with the project as recently as August.  Steven Chu, Obama’s Solyndra embroiled Energy Secretary, stated the obvious:

“Having Canada as a supplier for our oil is much more comforting than having other countries supply our oil”

Heh, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.  In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton essentially made the same point:

“We’re either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the Gulf or dirty oil from Canada.”

And yet now, amazingly, we’re told by these same people that the pipeline is “not in the national interest”?   It’s pretty clear what’s going on here. Obama chose to ignore his policy advisors in favor of his political advisors, as implied by Samuelson and the WaPo Editorial Board.  This is not surprising, of course, to those of us who understand what motivates our President, but it’s encouraging to see at least some recognition of this in the mainstream media.  Having David Chu as Secretary of Energy is bad enough, but a Secretary Axelrod or Secretary Plouffe is horrifying?  We’re in good hands, folks.

Update: This is hilarious. On the same day Obama rejected the Keystone Pipeline, his campaign released an ad in which our most brilliant President ever claims he’s being attacked by the scourge of the planet.  Yes, I’m talking about those dastardly “secretive oil billionaires” that occupy the deep recesses of our minds and about whom we all have nightmares. I’m not making this up.

Can there be any doubt as to why Obama rejected the pipeline?  How else could he run against those nefarious “secretive oil billionaires”?  And as a campaign catchphrase it’s golden.  It rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?  See if you can say “secretive oil billionaires” three times while holding a lit match.

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