President Obama Vetoes Keystone Pipeline


TransCanada-Keystone-Pipeline-System-Map President Obama on Tuesday used his veto power for just the third time in his presidency, vetoing legislation that would have authorized construction of a 1,179-mile pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels a day of heavy petroleum from the oil sands of Alberta to ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast.

However, the veto, at least for now, appears to have been on largely procedural issues – the President rejected this as an attempt by lawmakers to force his hand on the pipeline. As the New York Times reported, “By rejecting the legislation, Mr. Obama retains the right to make a final judgment on the pipeline on his own timeline. But he did little to calm the political debate over Keystone, which has become a symbol of the continuing struggle between environmentalists and conservatives.”

The veto message read: “Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.”

He added, “The Presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously.  But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people. And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto.”

Naturally the reaction was mixed, ranging from House Speaker John Boehner calling it a “national embarrassment” and accusing the President of being “too close to environmental extremists” and “too invested in left-fringe politics.”

On the other hand, environmentalists hailed the decision, seeing it as indicating the President’s intention to reject the pipeline altogether.

“Republicans in Congress continued to waste everyone’s time with a bill destined to go nowhere, just to satisfy the agenda of their big oil allies,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club. “The president has all the evidence he needs to reject Keystone XL now, and we are confident that he will.”

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called it “the right decision at the right time.”

She wrote, “The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has repeatedly been shown to be dangerous to our water, communities and climate. And it makes no economic sense, putting the livelihoods of American farmers and ranchers at risk while only creating 35 permanent U.S. jobs.”

The Times writes, “Most energy policy experts say the project will have a minimal impact on jobs and climate. But Republicans insist that the pipeline will increase employment by linking the United States to an energy supply from a friendly neighbor. Environmentalists say it will contribute to ecological destruction and damaging climate change.”

Earlier this month, the EPA issued a report that concluded that the process of extracting oil from the Canadian oil sands would produce about 17 percent more greenhouse gas pollution than the process used to extract conventional oil – at the same time, the oil would be reduced with or without the construction of the pipeline.

Without the pipeline, the oil would be transported via rail, which increasingly has been cited as a public safety risk, both at a local level and nationally.

The NRDC writes, “The proposed $7 billion tar sands oil pipeline would run 2,000 miles across the American heartland, crossing the country’s largest freshwater aquifer to reach the Texas Gulf Coast. There, refineries would process a projected 830,000 barrels of dirty crude daily, most of them bound for overseas markets, with negligible impact on U.S. energy independence or gas prices.”

They write, “The new pipeline would be harmful for people, water, wildlife, and climate.”

They argue that the tar sands pipelines “are more vulnerable to leaks than those carrying traditional crude because of the oil’s corrosive nature and the chemicals necessary to make it run through the pipes.”

Moreover, the composition of the oil means the “mining and refining tar sands oil demands an enormous amount of energy — much more than conventional crude. Keystone XL would ramp up tar sands production, requiring even more energy and creating greater carbon pollution: the equivalent of Americans driving an unthinkable 60 billion extra miles every year.”

James Hansen, a NASA scientist, in a 2012 op-ed in the New York Times, wrote, “If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.”

He adds, “Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.”

For the President’s part, in his State of the Union address, he urged both sides to “set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. “ As the Times notes, “Mr. Obama has hinted that he thinks both sides have inflated their arguments, but he has not said what he will decide.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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69 thoughts on “President Obama Vetoes Keystone Pipeline”

  1. Barack Palin

    The King has spoken.  The White House spokespeople have been saying we need to provide jobs for ISIS while out of the other side of his mouth Obama is denying jobs to Americans with the Keystone veto.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            And are we just talking about temporary construction jobs. Because if the EPA analysis is correct, stopping the pipeline doesn’t stop the oil production – which I believe is problematic as well, but we’ll start here.

          2. Don Shor

            What Keystone would do is help Canada and the US increase their/our export capacity for oil, reducing the need for some of our trading partners to rely on oil from other parts of the world. There are reasonable national security arguments to be made for that outcome.
            It also would provide a much safer means of transporting Canada’s oil to refineries than rail. It would create some temporary construction jobs. And it would benefit one of our most important trading partners and a slew of American oil companies and refiners.
            What it won’t do is create a whole lot of new permanent jobs in the U.S. And it won’t decrease our dependence on foreign energy sources; continued expansion of natural gas development will do that. It will neither hasten nor delay US moves toward alternative energy sources.
            Lots of sound and fury on both sides on this issue. I’d bet it will get built with approval coming in a year or so. Politics will likely determine the pace of approval. And there’s no hurry.

        1. Barack Palin

          There are many more jobs than just the actual construction workers of the pipeline.  Take for instance the steel manufacturing jobs, delivering the steel and other supplies to the workers, the added oil creating more jobs at the refineries, the uplift and jobs to the communities as the pipeline passes throughout their towns, etc.  I could go on forever.  This pipeline could create 10’s of thousands of temporary and permanent jobs.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            The problem with your view is you are only looking at gross jobs, not net. You have weigh those against the jobs that would be added on the oil train side – assuming of course that the action does stop oil exploration altogether there and merely impacts the transportation method. Given that the oil pipe is the preferred option, it’s probably viewed as cheaper and therefore, there would be more jobs with rail transportation side. I’m not saying this is what I favor, I’m just pointing out that’s it is not clear to me that the pipe over rail produces more jobs.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          David, you’re right it’s more complicated, but I’m not sure your logic is correct.

          You wrote: “Given that the oil pipe is the preferred option, it’s probably viewed as cheaper and therefore, there would be more jobs with rail transportation side.” A train is operated by a few people. I think the costs there are coal (to power the train, and huge pollution), or electricity, I think it’s pumped to the western seaboard, and then transferred to a container ship, which also uses lots of power, and endangers sea life every so often, another environmental risk. Then shipped to Texas or China, offloaded (another risk, and more energy), and then refined. Lots of exchanges, which a pipeline cuts out.

          BP is right, higher energy costs effect us across the board. I was talking to a cement contractor and asked him why cement was so much more than I thought. The first explanation out of his mouth was “high energy costs, high transportation costs for material to the plant, and for the truck leaving the plant.”

        3. TrueBlueDevil

          That is the problem, Don, there is never a hurry for the left when it comes to energy, lowering costs, or helping families of businesses.

          Against all of the prognostications the past decade, we have increased our oil production (on pre-Obama permits), increased our oil usage from North America, and reduced our dependence on middle eastern oil.

          I would think the left would like this, as then it gives us less reason to get into wars, but this whole energy / warming thing is more like a religion and less like science.

          Obama has already said he wants to create another national park / refuge at the site in Alaska where we know we have vast amounts of oil reserves. He wants to block that. I’ve seen pictures where much of it looks like empty tundra, and the government already owns vast amounts of lands in the west that it doesn’t take care of.

          Cheap, reliable energy could help us to return some manufacturing jobs to America!! This is but another example where the Left either makes no sense, or talks out of both sides of it’s mouth (which the GOP can also do).

          1. Don Shor

            There is, in fact, no hurry for this particular part of it. Much is already done, another part is under construction. Oil is already moving. Prices are low and supplies are abundant at the moment. And once approval is granted, construction will happen very quickly.
            Both sides are overstating the importance of this project.

        4. TrueBlueDevil

          Don, the Left has been dragging it’s feet on this for 4, 5, 6 years.

          Is your goal now to drag it out to the next election, and hope that the Democrats regain control of the Senate so they can continue to block it?

      1. Barack Palin

        Obama has talked about generating jobs in America. The Keystone XL project would create tens of thousands of direct and indirect good paying jobs for the duration of its construction phase, and would continue to support job creation in Louisiana, a point Jindal emphasized in his response as well. “The President is shirking his responsibility to deliver good paying jobs to American workers,” he continued. “They are ready to work; they just need the Obama administration to get out of the way.”

  2. sisterhood

    If green energy was really pursued, they would be new jobs. People have to re-think their careers and adjust for a future world that is not dependent on foreign or domestic oil. There could be plenty of new green jobs if people think outside the box.

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    What source, and at what cost?

    Nuclear power produces no CO2, so that’s “green”, right? France uses tons of nuclear power, has the cleanest air in Europe, and sells excess energy to Germany… which followed the green dream and is now have to rethink the impracticality of it.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          Compared to what, moonlight? Natural Gas is referred to as “clean Natural Gas” for a reason, far cleaner than coal, and gasoline.

          This is why some metro buses and rail run on NG, and it has been a major player in helping us to drive our CO2 emissions down by 20% in the very recent past! NG is a key player in the short term (under 20-50 years) to bridge us to the next energy source.

          Youngsters get so excited when they talk about solar power, but they don’t know the cost (expensive), they haven’t considered that it doesn’t work well at night or in Canada, battery storage is horrible (technology, cost, size, pollution of old batteries), and we’ve spent tons of money on the technology for over 50 years. It’s not a new idea. It’s still a drop in the bucket, and even Germany now – the solar king of the world – has learned painful lessons and is backing off their solar fantasies.

        2. Frankly

          “Natural gas and petroleum systems are the largest source of CH4 emissions from industry in the United States.


          Climate scientists still haven’t figured out the reason for the so-called “pause” in global warming — more accurately, a slowdown in the rate of warming over the past decade or so — even as emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide continue to increase. But there’s another sort of pause, involving a different greenhouse gas, that baffles them as well. From 1999 through 2006, methane concentrations in the atmosphere stopped increasing after more than a decade of strong growth. Then they took off again. “It is,” said Euan Nisbet, of the University of London in an interview, “a real puzzle.”

          But the scientists suggest that the greater contribution to skyrocketing methane levels has more to do with biological sources of the gas. Methane molecules are made of carbon and hydrogen atoms, and the carbon in biological methane tends to be slightly lighter than the carbon in methane associated with fossil fuels. And over the past decade or so, the proportion of lighter methane in the atmosphere compared to heavier methane has been rising. “I think this perspective is basically right,” said Martin Helmann, of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, in Jena, Germany, in an email. Helmann was not involved in the research.

          The authors of the Science paper have some ideas about why biological sources of methane may be increasing. “In the southern hemisphere especially,” Nisbet said, “but also in the northern tropics, a series of really wet years has caused wetlands to expand”—and vegetation decomposing in swamps and shallow lakes is a well known source of natural methane emissions. Another is cows, which generate methane as they digest their food, then belch it out into the air.

          These explanations, however, aren’t at all definitive — another key point Nisbet and his co-authors make in the Science paper. “The measurements we make in the air are direct,” he said. “Estimates of where methane is coming from, by contrast, is much less reliable. You estimate the contributions from gas leaks, count up the cows, estimate the emissions from wetlands. There’s obviously going to be a lot of error.”

          And in fact, there is: the estimates of how much methane should be going into the atmosphere are greater than what actually ends up there. Tracking methane emissions more accurately is crucial, said the scientists, and not just as an academic exercise.

          “If we want to control greenhouse-gas emissions,” Nisbet said, “it’s obviously important to know where the emissions are coming from.”

          Again we have data and unexplained questions that shoot so many holes in the theories of anthropogenic climate change that it leaks like a rusty pail.

          1. Don Shor

            Everything isn’t fully explained, ambiguity exists, therefore this “shoot(s) so many holes in the theories…that it leaks like a rusty pail”?
            It must be nice to live in a world so uncluttered by lack of certitude.
            Given the range of things you’ve said over the years on this topic, I find myself unclear as to what you actually believe.
            Do you think the earth is getting warmer?
            If so, do you think humans cause some percentage of that?

      1. Jim Frame

        It seems to me that if one is concerned about the effect of human energy use on the climate, then limiting the use of energy from long-term storage is problematic.  Solar, wind (a solar derivative), hydro (another solar derivative) and tidal energy is going to flow through the system whether we want it to or not, so redirecting some of it for “productive” use seems like a way to have our cake and eat it too.  All have their problems — hydro’s may be the best-characterized, and further large-scale hydro may not be worth the cost — but at least they don’t add to the planet’s heat load.

        Oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear all represent stored energy, and it seems clear to me that releasing them is adding to, if not completely causing, the problem.  It may be that the additional up-front monetary cost of solar et al is worth the long-term savings in net kinetic energy in the system.



        1. hpierce

          Not sure of short-term practicality, but Jim makes some good points… trivia question… when was tidal power first used to provide effective, practical energy, (at least for the small region at the time) and where?  Hint:  if you think the answer is in the last 50-75 years, you’d be wrong.

          1. Matt Williams

            The two that popped to mind were The Netherlands and Venice, but regarding timeframe you’ve got me.

  4. TrueBlueDevil

    This is a perfect example of Crony Capitalism which affects both the GOP and Democrats / Progressives.

    This bill directly benefits Obama chum Warren Buffet, a billionaire who makes lots of money off of transporting oil by rail. A new pipeline would cut into his billions of profits.

    A new pipeline wold create jobs, virtually eliminate train car accidents / spills, provide needed jobs, further our national goals of energy independence and cheaper energy – which aids individual families and business. But the Far Left / Progressives fight this common sense move.

    Typical politician, Obama adds in words like he may stay pass this, while he signs the veto. Political games. He is on the record as wanting our energy prices to “necessarily skyrocket”, as he is a Warmist and seems out of touch with the common man and woman.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      If that’s the case, why veto it on procedural grounds? Why not stop the project altogether which he has the ability to do? Conspiracy theories are easy and unprovable in these cases.

        1. Don Shor

          The veto is the prerogative of the President. Obama has vetoed fewer bills than any other modern president. This is his third veto. Your suggestion that he is being imperious is unreasonable.

        2. Barack Palin

          Only because over the last 4 years he has had Harry Reid in essence blocking any bill that he didn’t like through not letting the Senate vote on them and thereby not hitting his desk.  That’s going to change now that Reid no longer controls the Senate.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        I believe BP has it right, who knows why Valerie Jarrett (Obama’s Brain) made this political decision. The Chicago Way? (I know he vetoed it after 11 AM, because he starts his day very, very late after watching some morning television and not reading his daily intelligence briefings. But I digress.) I never thought I would yearn for Jimmy Carter, but I do.

        Obamacare / ACA – he has changed it over 22 times by executive action without Congressional approval – unconstitutional?

        Defies a Texas Judge on Amnesty – a Judge issued an injunction against Obama’s amnesty, which he appears to be violating in several ways right now.

        Iran – why does Iran, sitting on vast amounts of oil and natural gas, need nuclear power? Why did the Obama administration recently force a college to accept some Iranian graduate students into their graduate nuclear program?

        BTW, Jarrett’s parents had connections to Franklin Marshall Davis, and it is alleged that her parents were communists.

  5. Frankly

    What Keystone would do is help Canada and the US increase their/our export capacity for oil, reducing the need for some of our trading partners to rely on oil from other parts of the world. There are reasonable national security arguments to be made for that outcome.

    It also would provide a much safer means of transporting Canada’s oil to refineries than rail. It would create some temporary construction jobs. And it would benefit one of our most important trading partners and a slew of American oil companies and refiners.

    This from Don covers it.

    With the recent and probable future oil train derailments, it appears that Obama and Democrats have lost their environmental minds.  I think this very much harms the Democrats in the coming election.

    1. Don Shor

      I’d be willing to bet that once the review is completed, the Keystone pipeline will be approved and signed. Just about in time for the 2016 elections.
      I really wish James Hansen would retire from NASA so that he can voice his political and environmental opinions without seeming to give it the imprimatur of being endorsed by NASA.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      Don unfortunately is ignoring the problem with the oil that resides up there as laid out in the NY Times column I linked to in the article.

      1. Don Shor

        Which part? David, this oil is going to get to market. What do you think the Canadians are going to do if the last part of Keystone isn’t approved? Throw up their hands and stop extracting it?

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Like I said, the analysis seems to think that without the pipeline, the oil would be transported via rail. However, after reading the analysis of the environmental damage done by that oil, I would hope that Obama and our leadership would figure out ways to address that. That seems far more serious than the pipeline issue itself.

          1. Don Shor

            I would hope that Obama and our leadership would figure out ways to address that.

            You mean you hope that Obama and our leadership would figure out how to persuade the Canadians to not extract and sell it?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            In the long run we all lose unless we figure a way to work with Canada and China to limit the damage of global warming.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          BP, that is exactly the point. When we over-regulate steel production or oil, it doesn’t stop. It’s just done in Mexico or China, which have horrible records as far as the environment. On top of that, then the product / raw materials have to be shipped back here! We lost the jobs, taxes, environmental control, and other benefits, and we add more carbon to the air because of shipping. Look at the Bay Bridge which has Chinese bolts with multiple issues, most recently the bolts at the base of the large spire have been shown to have hydrogen intrusion / cracking. What are the added costs if we have to build a new bridge, and tear down this $10 billion Fiasco?

        3. TrueBlueDevil

          DP, if you believe in warming, work on both supply and demand.. and on the supply side, nuclear power (no co2) and clean natural gas play a role, along with a little wind power.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Again, Natural Gas is no cleaner with regards to greenhouse gas emissions. So anyone who believes in global warming should not pursue such a strategy.

  6. hpierce

    David/moderator…. in the spirit of “transparency”and raising funds for the Vanguard, perhaps a new feature “non-sequiturs” and off-topic “bloopers” (maybe even  “off-color” posts) could be available to “premium” subscribers, who, say, pay $200/month (minimum 12 month commitment) to view them in a separate URL.  Just a thought [and tongue fully in cheek]

    Oh, and I will NOT be one of those premium subscribers.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      On one of the old sites we had that ability, I think that’s part of the plan. While I wouldn’t want to make the feature available only to subscribers, you do bring up the point that these changes all cost money.

  7. Matt Williams

    “A South Dakota-based Native American tribe is warning that approving the Keystone oil pipeline would be “an act of war,” according to a written statement. 

    The statement from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe was posted online following last Friday’s House vote in favor of the Keystone pipeline — and ahead of a vote Tuesday evening in the Senate. 

    “We are outraged at the lack of intergovernmental cooperation. We are a sovereign nation and we are not being treated as such. We will close our reservation borders to Keystone XL. Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people,” tribe President Cyril Scott said in the statement.”

    1. Miwok

      Speaking of logistics, let’s talk about the Alaska Pipeline. It ships oil to the coast to put on ships. Are the spills out there “out of sight, out of mind”?

      The Keystone XL looks like a shortcut to what they already have? Are all those colored lines existing now? SO, if they can build another to help with the oil from Alaska to this one, then not needing ships, would that be of interest? If so, then denying the construction does not make sense based on the assumption they can reduce the possibility of Sea based leakage or Exxon Valdez spills.

      I wonder sometimes why there are no refineries in the Plains States to process this oil?

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