Keystone XL delay seen giving time for climate concessions

‘Wiggle Room’

“The president set a tough climate test for the pipeline, which it clearly fails to pass,” Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, said in a statement Aug. 29. “ There is no wiggle room here.”

In its draft review, the State Department said the net effect on the climate would be minimal. “They didn’t calculate it right,” William Moomaw, a professor at Medford, Massachusetts-based Tufts University, said in an interview. “If President Obama is serious about his statement in his Georgetown speech, the answer is very clear.”

Obama also questioned Keystone’s value as a jobs creator in an interview with the New York Times and in a July speech in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The comments have emboldened environmental groups that have been galvanized by the issue in much the same way they were in opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a decade ago.

Negotiating Ploy

Victor, at the University of California, said Obama’s negative comments about Keystone could be a negotiating ploy. The more it looks like he’ll reject it the more the Canadian government may be willing to commit to emissions reduction targets, he said.

A delay may also take some of the steam out of the opposition, Webber at the University of Texas said.

“It lets everyone cool off,” he said in an interview.

So far, protests have been waxing, not waning. and other groups have been showing up this year at speeches by Obama and outside fundraisers where he appears. Last month a large group tried to get arrested out front of the State Department.

“We need to keep up the pressure,” said May Boeve, executive director of, which promotes policies to reduce the threat of climate change and helped raise the political profile of Keystone.

Opponents including Steyer have said a Keystone approval can’t be justified by climate concessions from Canada or with domestic limits on carbon emissions.

Canadian officials, meanwhile, have resisted suggestions that it do more to address climate change as a quid pro quo for Keystone approval.

“Canada has an excellent environmental record,” Joe Oliver, Canada’s natural resources minister, said in an e-mail in July. “We’ve already acted to phase out traditionally fired coal electricity.”

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