Saturday, November 12, 2011

Voting 'Present': Obama Puts Off Important Pipeline Decision Until After 2012 Elections

Heavy-duty mining trucks loaded with oil sands for processing at Fort MacMurray, Alberta- photo Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press
The Obama Administration postponed an important decision regarding the proposed KeystoneXL pipeline that would bring oil from Alberta's Athabasca oil sands to a refinery in Texas. Conveniently enough for the President, the delay means that a decision on the fate of the project won't be reached until after the 2012 Presidential election.
The State Department suggested that looking at new routes for the pipeline within the state of Nebraska would take until at least the first quarter of 2013, well beyond the November 6, 2012 U.S. election. The department had previously said it hoped to make a final decision by the end of this year.
Trans Canada Pipeline [NYSE: TRP/TSX: TRP] would build, operate and maintain the proposed pipeline, which would bypass a circuitous route through southern Manitoba to Steele City, NE. Another phase of the pipeline would be added between Cushing, OK and Port Arthur, TX on the Gulf Coast. Because the pipeline crosses an international border with the USA, the decision was reportedly left up to the State Department.

President Obama denied that domestic politics played any role in the delay, even though Canadian officials say that any significant delay could doom the project and the decision is a win for the environmentalists opposed to the project.

While Obama dithers, procrastinates and puts off any meaningful decision on the KeystoneXL pipeline until he feels its politically safe to do so, China's state run Sinopec [NYSE: SHI] has invested heavily in the Northern Gateway Pipeline project with Canadian oil and pipeline company Enbridge [NYSE: ENB]. The Northern Gateway would move oil from the Athabasca oil sands over the Rocky mountains to a maritime terminal in Kitmat, BC. Unlike KeystoneXL, the Northern Gateway pipeline takes an all-Canada routing; meaning that Canada could export oil to China or India without having to wait around for the dithering and red tape involved in State Department or White House approval from her neighbor to the south.

So while President Obama has been lamenting that America no longer seems capable of building another Hoover Dam or Golden Gate bridge while stumping for his jobs bill, with the stroke of a pen he had the opportunity to create at least 4,000 jobs and provide a steady source of energy from a politically stable ally instead of Islamist Saudi Arabia or Hugo Chavez's socialist Venezuela.

This week's decision smacks of him waiting until voters cannot punish him at the ballot box when he finally does vote against it. The fact that he opted for a contrived and politically safe delay that supposedly won't get resolved until after the 2012 campaign seems to indicate he's only interested in being a one-term president.

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