I previously recommended Ryan Lizza's excellent overview in The New Yorker of the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. On Wednesday, Lizza spoke with Fresh Air's Dave Davies about the Keystone XL pipeline and how because of the government shutdown, now is a good time to take action on climate change.
I think there's an important moment here for Barack Obama if he chooses to take it — even if he thinks that denying the permit to build Keystone won't have a huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions — he could use it as a symbolic turning point in the kind of energy future he wants America to have. That is, he might say, "At some point we have to move away from fossil fuels and I'm using this moment to lead a crusade in America to move away from fossil fuels."
As we sit here in October of 2013, immigration reform seems dead, gun control legislation is dead, and the government is shut down with no grand bargain in sight. So a lot of environmentalists say, "Why not concentrate on the things you can do unilaterally?" And one of those things you can do unilaterally is address climate change, both on the regulatory side with the EPA but also by killing this Keystone project. So in this complicated calculation about whether to approve this pipeline or not, you have to think that perhaps that will enter into Obama's thinking and that he realizes as his domestic agenda that requires congressional approval withers, maybe it makes some sense to concentrate and act on the things he can do on his own.
Listen to the interview here.