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Forum editorial: Pipeline decision is political

President Barack Obama's decision to delay an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas sends the wrong signals to a nation that is emerging from recession. It suggests the president cares little about the impact on Americans of high gasoline and heating...

President Barack Obama's decision to delay an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas sends the wrong signals to a nation that is emerging from recession. It suggests the president cares little about the impact on Americans of high gasoline and heating fuel prices. It confirms that when the economic chips are really down, the president opts for politics over pragmatism.

Furthermore, environmentalists who are hailing the decision as a victory for their climate-change cause are being disingenuous.

On the jobs front, numbers have been tossed around that are inflated, to say the least. The president of the pipeline company himself has said the 1,700-mile project would generate about 6,500 direct jobs in construction and associated work. Of course, a good case can be made that thousands more indirect jobs - everything from steel fabricators to regulators to truckers to services along the route - would come on line.

The holier-than-thou environmentalists are celebrating, but it's a phony party, and they know it. The tar sands of Alberta - the source of the oil - will not be abandoned because of the president's decision. As long as oil is hovering near $100 per barrel, it will find a market. If the oil does not flow to U.S. refineries, it likely will move west and across the Pacific to the thirsty China market. Environmentalists' concern about "dirty oil" that generates greenhouse gases is dishonest, as it relates to the pipeline, because mining the tar sands will not stop.

Additionally, the president has soured relations with Canada, a reliable ally and trading partner, and a friendly source of oil that contributes mightily to U.S. energy needs at a time when instability threatens supplies from unfriendly nations.

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The president's justification for denying the permit is that he objected to a congressionally imposed deadline for making a decision. He blamed Congress because he said the deadline did not allow enough time to assess the project. What nonsense.

The assessment has been ongoing. The primary objection - worry in Nebraska about the route through the sandhills region and over an important aquifer - was being addressed. The route was being changed. The president's action, however, will require the ongoing assessment to be scrapped and restarted.

Finally, the pipeline has bipartisan backing. For example, North Dakota Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad and Republican Sen. John Hoeven support the project because they understand its value to the nation's energy security. They have not been playing politics with the issue.

Not so with the president. His political stunt is damaging to the nation and disappointing to Americans who might have believed he was a post-partisan president.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.

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