- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Sometimes “no” is not an acceptable answer. Last week, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, apparently dooming the 20,000 meaningful private-sector jobs the energy project would have created. House Republicans are sifting through the fragments of their smashed hopes, searching for a way to morph no into yes. It may be a long shot, but this deal is far too important to the nation to give up without a fight.

On Wednesday, Rep. Fred Upton’s House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to question Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environment and scientific affairs, about the administration’s choice. “We want to know why this project was derailed at the 11th hour after an extensive review process and with time to spare before the president’s deadline,” the Michigan Republican said in a statement Thursday. The House had given Mr. Obama until Feb. 21 to act on the project.

Because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canadian border in carrying crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, the project falls under purview of the State Department. The committee asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to testify, but she refused, apparently not wanting to offer Republicans a high-profile target for their rebuttal.

The hearing is meant to do more than just scold the Obama administration. Republican lawmakers intend to tout their North American Energy Access Act, a bill that would remove the project from the president’s hands and place it under the authority of the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The measure is expected to find favor in the House, but the odds of it getting past the Democratic Senate and Mr. Obama’s veto pen are nil.

Washington watchers weren’t so much surprised by the White House’s decision on the pipeline as they were by the suddenness of the Jan. 18 announcement. Just one day earlier, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness had called for an “all-in approach” to energy production, including increased oil- and gas-drilling and construction of distribution pipelines. Mr. Obama’s subsequent rejection of Keystone XL apparently was intended to put to rest any notion that a large-scale conventional-energy project would be built while he occupies the White House.

There is little Republicans can do to change Mr. Obama’s no to a yes. Still, ample opportunities exist to expose his order for what it is: a payoff to left-wing supporters who style themselves as environmentalists. They’re banking on the White House to shield their expensive and pointless windmill and solar-energy projects from the competition of affordable fossil fuels like oil. As author Peter Schweizer detailed in his recent best-seller, “Throw Them All Out,” 80 percent of $20.5 billion in Energy Department loans went to Mr. Obama’s top donors.

If voters agree on Election Day that this is not the American way, Mr. Obama could be forced into an early retirement, providing a comeback for the Keystone XL pipeline and the nation’s energy independence.

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