Every husband has been there. It is not a good place to be.
But when you are the former President of the United States and your wife is the current Secretary of State charged with carrying water for her boss on the Keystone XL pipeline project, prudence suggests caution when exercising your First Amendment rights to ‘say whatever you please.’
As we all know, just because we have a right to our opinion does not mean we aren’t going to pay a price for privilege. So why did Bill Clinton do it?
“The extra cost of running it [re-routing the pipeline around the Nebraska Sand Hill region environmentalists worry about] is infinitesimal compared to the revenues the pipeline could produce. I think we should embrace it and develop a stakeholder-driven system of high standards for doing the work.”
Maybe he is sending a signal to the environmental base in the Democratic Party that re-routing is the best deal they are likely to get so take the deal. Maybe he is telling the party that being against domestic energy production is the 2012 extension of the “it’s the economy stupid” message they best not forget. Maybe he is saying what Hillary cannot say that the Keystone XL project is a good idea and we should support it. Maybe he is reminding the President that moving to the centre worked for him when running for re-election.
One of the reasons that Bill Clinton keeps escaping from the doghouse of history is that he has an uncanny way of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. As the old joke goes, he has a way of telling you to go to hell in such a manner that you look forward to the trip. That really is where we are with the issue of the balance between environmental protection, domestic energy production and economic recovery.
Because we want all of it we face the reality that we can actually have all of it but we must compromise around the edges to do so. This I think is Bill Clinton’s advice to us all.
We need economic growth for its jobs creating and revenue producing realities. We want domestic energy production for the insurance it provides against Middle East conflicts, China’s insatiable appetite for energy acquisition around the world, and the price volatility that suddenly higher oil prices remind us can easily tank our fragile recovery. We also are realizing that America actually does have enough energy to meet our needs without sacrificing our planet or our way of life.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that in our constantly hyper-partisan political environment we are losing sight of the public interest in pursuit of the ideologically pure but often impractical of the left and the right. The vast majority of Americans are in the middle just where Bill Clinton is, but the political parties cannot tame their pit bull fringe groups eager to attack anything in their path.
President Obama had his own Sister Souljah moment opportunity with the Keystone XL pipeline project where he could have been presidential and brought us together around rerouting the pipeline but approving the project so both sides could claim victory and the public interest would have been well served.
It did not happen and that is why, I believe, Bill Clinton is speaking out.
So instead TransCanada announced this week that it would go ahead with the portion of the Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast to break the logjam at that key pricing point. TransCanada also said it would re-file its application for the northern portion of the project in the US from the Canadian border to Steel City, Nebraska to be able to gather the growing volume of oil being produced from the Bakken shale and likely the Niobrara Shale. Neither of these segment extensions requires State Department or Presidential approval.
The public interest is going to be served; President Clinton is reminding us in his remarks, putting a good spin on the bittersweet story.
Is Bill Clinton in Hillary’s doghouse over his Keystone XL remarks?
Not a chance. The old master is reminding the new kid in the White House that his friends are likely to cause him more grief than his enemies unless he forces them to compromise in the middle where there is safety in numbers with rest of America and where, as an added bonus, the public interest lives—and he can take credit for serving it rather than scraping it off his shoes.
By. Gary L. Hunt
Gary Hunt is President, Scalable Growth Strategy Advisors, an independent energy technology and information services adviser and a partner in Tech & Creative Labs, a disruptive innovation software collaborative of high tech companies focused on the energy vertical. He served as VP-Global Analytics & Data at IHS/CERA; global Division President at Ventyx, now an ABB company; and Assistant City Manager-Austin Texas responsible for Austin Energy and Austin Water.