Keystone XL’s midterm outlook: Eco-aristocrats versus everybody else

posted at 3:21 pm on March 25, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

As I’ve said before, I’m starting to lean toward the theory that the Obama administration really will make a Keystone XL pipeline decision in the next few months (and the most opportune moment might actually be just before the midterms). A strategically announced green light and a pro-jobs message could provide a much-needed boost to some of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats in Alaska, Louisiana, Colorado, etcetera who don’t ascribe to the anti-fossil-fuelism that is all the rage among the party’s more progressive eco-radical contingent.

Making predictions about it at all stills feels borderline ridiculous, since the Obama administration will continue to do whatever the heck they want to without feeling at all constrained by the highly irregular five years they’ve been trampling all over Canada’s energy sector. The biggest trouble with that imminent-Keystone-approval theory is that some of the Democrats’ most high-profile, wealthy donors are self-fancied environmentalist aristocrats — i.e., out-of-touch millionaires — who are avidly anti-Keystone and who might not feel compelled to keep dropping dollars on the races in the energy-rich red-purple states where those donations will be needed most in the event of an approval. I like how Lloyd Green phrased the “green-gentry liberalism” situation at the Daily Beast:

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center reported that the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline project was not a routine party-line battle between Democrats and Republicans, but a high-profile scrum pitting the Democrats’ donor class against the rest of America. According to Pew, the public actually favors Keystone by better than two-to-one, with opposition concentrated among graduate degree holding Democrats, and Democrats with household incomes north of $100,000. In contrast to high-end Democrats, working class Democrats support Keystone—regardless of race.

So where does this leave would-be populist Al Gore—who branded Keystone as an “atrocity,” —along with would-be Democratic financial savior and Keystone opponent Tom Steyer, and the Democratic Party itself? How about a world away from job-craving America, and light years from the mid-twentieth century Democratic Party.

Truth bomb. In the meantime, Canadian officials and energy executives are still putting a brave face on the situation, but not-so-subtly stressing that the way they’ve been treated is beyond egregious:


Contrary to what environmentalists have been claiming about killing Keystone XL as a viable way to push Canada into keeping more of their oil sands in the ground, the global demand incentivizing Canada to develop their oil sands has only kept right on growing, and be it by train, barge, or one of the about ten other proposed pipelines Canada is thinking about, some of which are already in the works, Canada is just as determined to get its oil to market. Via CNBC:

As the Keystone XL project has languished, pipeline companies have proposed a number of other projects to move oil out of Alberta, most of them entirely on Canadian soil.

TransCanada, the company that wants to build Keystone XL, recently took the first step in the approval process for a different pipeline, a massive project that would snake nearly 2,800 miles from Alberta to Eastern Canada. “Energy East” would transport a whopping 1.1 million barrels of crude a day to refineries in Quebec and terminals on the Atlantic coast.

The next largest project, Kinder Morgan’s proposed TransMountain pipeline, would carry about 890,000 barrels a day in the other direction to the coast of British Columbia.

Enbridge, another major Canadian pipeline company, has two projects in the works — the Northern Gateway, which would send 520,000 barrels a day to the coast of British Columbia, and its Line 3 replacement, which could move 760,000 barrels a day from Canada into Wisconsin. Because Line 3 would replace an existing cross-border pipeline, the company argues it would not need the presidential permit that has held up Keystone XL.


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