This entire time, I thought that there was hardly a real chance that the Obama administration would ultimately reject the Keystone XL pipeline when it really came down to it. Sure, they’ve been stalling out the wazoo — presumably hoping the PR furor over the proposal would die down a bit, and/or to think up some other tantalizing climate-focused projects with which to quell the green lobby’s inevitable anger — but there is too much bipartisan, international, high-profile and widespread support for the project as both a job creator and energy-security enhancer for the president to really shut it down in the end (the thing is already halfway built, for goodness’ sake). Just today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee launched a new campaign touting all of the benefits the pipeline’s construction would bring and highlighting the administration’s many delays:

 

President Obama might talk a big game of climate hawkishness and grandiose sweeping ambitions, but he can’t avoid political realities and economic pragmatism — and while we’ll surely still be treated to the usual costly regulations, green-energy “investments,” and feel-good efficiency standards to which the White House likes to point as evidence of their environmental seriousness, this pipeline is too big a deal to sacrifice (and doing so would only be a shallow symbolic gesture, anyway, seeing as how those oil sands will definitely still get used; they’ll just be shipped off to China instead).

Or is it? The green lobby is throwing everything they have at this thing, and there’s the lingering possibility it might really be enough to put off the Obama administration. Brand-new Secretary of State and longtime self-promoted climate-change champion John Kerry met with his Canadian counterpart at the close of last week, and isn’t offering many hints about which way the administration is leaning nor updates on a precise timeline for the decision:

Secretary of State John Kerry and his Canadian counterpart refused to offer hints Friday about the biggest economic decision facing their countries: the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline.

But they stressed that the U.S. and Canada agree on a host of economic and environmental causes — including climate change, the same issue that has motivated many of Keystone’s green opponents to try to kill the project.

“Canada and the United States share the same values, the history and heritage of our people,” Kerry told reporters at the State Department after a closed-door discussion with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird on issues that included Keystone. …

Kerry said Canada and the U.S. will continue to cooperate “to meet the needs of a secure clean-energy future on this shared continent.”

Trying to work out some kind of supplementary allied climate-change agreement they can simultaneously introduce along with the pipeline’s approval to make it more palatable for the enviros, or the precursor to letting Canada down easy? Keeping the pipeline under review before the election made all the political sense in the world, but now… I’m kind of nervous.

Here are President Barack Obama’s words from his second inaugural address: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” Thence followed 10 sentences about climate change.

In Edmonton and Ottawa, where governments had grown confident that Mr. Obama, once re-elected, would give the green light to the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s bitumen oil deposits to the Gulf of Mexico, those sentences were at least worrisome, if not menacing. …

With so many other priorities – the budget deficit, gun control, immigration – why did the President spend so much of his inaugural speech on an issue the Alberta and Canadian governments figured had disappeared from his radar screen. Maybe he was just playing to history, in which case the sentences will disappear into the political ether. Or maybe he actually believes what he said.