President Obama recently told a group of governors in a closed-door meeting that he would make a decision on the infamous Keystone XL pipeline within a “couple” of months. Those remarks came as a surprise because doing so before the mid-term elections will pose a significant risk, no matter which way he chooses. If the President rejects the pipeline, he puts the Democrats’ control of the Senate at risk. Several Democratic Senators that are from conservative states and/or from states with a large presence of oil and gas drilling are up for tough reelections. On the other hand, if he approves the pipeline, the President risks blowing off powerful Democratic donors, including billionaire Tom Steyer who has shown a willingness to pour millions of dollars into election races for Democrats.
Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) are four of the most vulnerable. They all support the Keystone XL pipeline and polling data suggest that some voters in their state would be less likely to vote for them should the President reject the pipeline.
Related Article: Keystone XL’s Miniscule CO2 Impact and the Bigger Picture
Bloomberg reports that many of the President’s advisors oppose the pipeline, including Valerie Jarrett, Dan Pfeiffer, and John Podesta. Obama himself has publicly dismissed some of the rosy jobs figures projected by the oil and gas industry, offering hints that he may personally not favor the project. But, he also apparently feels that the huge political fight has surpassed the pipeline’s importance – it will neither be an enormous source of greenhouse gases, nor will it lead to energy independence, as both sides claim.
It would appear then that from a political perspective, the President would be better positioned to wait until after the mid-term elections, at which point he could make a decision either way without such enormous consequences.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com