- - Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Remember the good old days, when President Obama used to pay lip service about working with Republicans on important bipartisan legislation to help all Americans?

Well, Mr. Obama’s lips are now noticeably pursed.

The president has been in a rather foul mood since the GOP overwhelmingly won last year’s midterm elections and took control of both houses of Congress. He’s threatening to use his presidential veto to defeat any Republican legislation he doesn’t like.

Case in point: the Keystone XL pipeline.

This is the proposed fourth phase of the original Keystone pipeline. It’s an important link in oil production between Canada and the United States that has been in operation since 2010. The Canadian crude starts in Hardisty, Alberta, flows to Regina, Saskatchewan and makes its way to U.S. oil refineries in Illinois and Texas. Steele City, Nebraska, and Cushing, Oklahoma, have since been added, and Houston will be included in the mix later this year.

Keystone XL, or Phase IV, is an $8 billion project that was first proposed in 2008. This pipeline’s proposed route, which has already been rejiggered several times by TransCanada Corp., would start in Hardisty, Alberta, cross through three new states (Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota), and end in Steele City. It would, therefore, follow a similar, albeit shorter, route of the original pipeline and would help enhance the entire project.

Alas, Mr. Obama has either ignored, refused or shelved any proposal to build Keystone XL. His arguments have predictably been in lockstep with the environmental lobby’s sacred playbook, including: fear of the oil sands, concerns over potential oil spills and assumptions that it could contaminate the fresh water supply in the Ogallala Aquifer.

Could some of these assumptions come to fruition? It’s highly unlikely, although anything is possible. No one knows for sure, and most environmentalists are fundamentally aware of this — even if they don’t acknowledge it publicly.

Why would the president bother to pay any attention to the environmental lobbyists? It’s simple: He owes them. Their political and financial support in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, along with the liberal Democrats and Hollywood pals who publicly oppose projects like Keystone XL, helped him achieve victory.

As the syndicated columnist Molly Ivins famously wrote, “You got to dance with them what brung you.” Politicians of all stripes can often be found on the dance floor, and Mr. Obama is right there with them. He realizes what brought him to the White House, and he’s decided not to abandon his support base.

Yet, when you think about it, he really doesn’t owe them anything.

Mr. Obama is a lame-duck president who will be out of office in two years. He must surely realize that Keystone XL could potentially help increase oil revenues for many democratic nations. In the face of the commodity’s massive price drop in the global market, that should serve as a political incentive for any world leader.

Hence, Mr. Obama is missing out on a huge financial opportunity for North America to become a major player in the oil industry. For all the wrong reasons, it seems.

Meanwhile, another interesting development is occurring in Washington. A fair number of Democrats are beginning to openly oppose their president and support the proposed pipeline.

On Jan. 29, the Republican-controlled Senate’s amendments to the Keystone XL bill passed by a vote of 62-36. In total, nine Democrats ultimately broke party ranks. The House of Representatives quickly followed with its approval on Feb. 11 by a margin of 270-152. In this case, 29 Democrats joined the lofty GOP majority.

For the record, the dissenters included Democratic members of Congress who don’t represent the states that will be directly affected by this pipeline. Unless there are plans to make sudden detours through New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, that is.

Who can blame them? If passed, Keystone XL could help create new business and investment opportunities, as well as more jobs for Americans. It could also increase the economic viability of the United States, Canada and even Mexico.

If liberal and centrist Democrats are reaching this conclusion, maybe the president should take a deep breath, put aside his veto, and re-evaluate his position. If he doesn’t, the door will open for another Democratic or Republican president to add this project to his or her legacy after 2016.

America is beginning to dance to a different beat. The president should do the right thing and approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Michael Taube is a contributor to The Washington Times.

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