Vice President Biden opposes Keystone XL. What can this tell us about Obama's plans?

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CC BY-SA 2.0 ElvertBarnes via Flickr

This may not change the debate, but it may be telling about where Barack Obama and the White House stand:

Vice President Joe Biden told a South Carolina environmental activist Friday that he opposes a controversial oil pipeline from Canada, but said he is "in the minority" inside the Obama administration, according to the activist's account of the conversation.
An email obtained by BuzzFeed from the organization's national program assistant, Jessica Eckdish, provides Cooper's record of the encounter, in which she "was able to ask Vice President Biden if he supporting [sic] rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline," Eckdish writes.
The email continues: "Here's his response from Elaine: He grabbed my Sierra Club hat on my head and said, 'yes, I do — I share your views — but I am in the minority' and smiled."

I wondered out loud on Twitter if this would be like Biden's famous "gay marriage gaffe", in which he expressed his support for marriage equality and was seen as forcing the hand of President Obama to make his views of support public just three days later.

After thinking more about it, I don't think it will. The gay marriage debate came before the 2012 election and was an important, but not unexpected step in what had been a long string of advances the administration had made for gay rights.

With Keystone, rather than building towards its rejection, the State Department and White House have been signaling support. And taken in this context, Biden's statement, in particular the part about his being in the minority as an opponent to the pipeline, suggests Obama and the majority of this administration - or at least Secretary Kerry - does support it.

Another possibility is that Biden wanted to float his disapproval to the press to make it clear he disagrees with the pipeline, in the event it is approved. He has designs on running for President in 2016, so he may not want to be tarnished by the pipeline if it is eventually approved.

What do you make of Biden's comment? A typical gaffe or an attempt to signal his views in advance of whatever decision President Obama and Secretary Kerry end up making?

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