Today, during a speech about the economy and his jobs plan, President Obama criticized Republicans for spending too much time advocating for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Earlier this week, President Obama upset KXL supporters by referencing the low number of permanent jobs it is estimated to create. Supporters of the project were quick to attack Obama for using the lower number and The Washington Post even gave the comment "Two Pinocchios". However, as Juliet Eilperin reports, Obama was likely referencing an estimate from Cornell University's Global Labor Institute, which found the pipeline project would create fewer jobs than Trans Canada and KXL supporters have claimed.
In his speech Tuesday, President Obama reiterated this point. Watch it:
"If [Congressional Republicans have] got a better plan to create jobs rebuilding our infrastructure or to help workers earn the high-tech skills they need, then they should offer up these ideas. But I’ve got to tell you, just gutting our environmental protection, that’s not a jobs plan. Gutting investments in education, that’s not a jobs plan. You know, they keep on talking about an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that’s estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs. That’s not a jobs plan."
So, does this mean the State Department will reject the project? Here are a few reactions worth considering.
In a response to a question about Keystone XL at another event, new EPA chief Gina McCarthy said:
“I think the best that the EPA can do is to continue to be an honest commenter on the environmental impact statement, which we have done our best to do and will continue to do that and work with the administration as difficult decisions are made.”
She went on to explain how there seemed to be disagreement within the administration on this issue.
About Obama's questioning the jobs KXL would create, Lisa Hymas at Grist writes:
It’s notable that the president is trying to counter the GOP’s rah-rah rhetoric about how Keystone will create tens of thousands of jobs and make the U.S. more energy secure. It shows, if nothing else, that Keystone opponents are making their case heard and changing the debate.
That is certainly true. Environmentalists and opponents of the project were enthusiastic this week to hear President Obama speaking with such skepticism of KXL. But this doesn't mean he won't ultimately support it.
The bottom line is that pipeline has little upside and a big downside. Killing it should be an easy choice for the president and his secretary of state, John Kerry.
As was the case following his major climate speech in June, President Obama has left himself wiggle room with his comment that he would only approve the project if it "does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Just as is the case with the job estimates, there is some disagreement regarding what this means.
We'll just have to continue to wait and see what happens, but make no mistake about it, the fact this conversation is even happening and that the future of KXL is still unknown is a huge victory for environmentalists and climate hawks who want to keep the tar sands "carbon bomb" from detonating.
I'll continue to update this post as more reactions catch my eye.