Keystone skeptic to advise Obama

by Luiza Ch. Savage

President Barack Obama is bringing former Clinton White House chief of staff, John Podesta, into his inner circle as a White House counselor. The move is reportedly part of an effort to straighten out the troubled Obamacare rollout. However, it’s also worth noting that Podesta, who until recently headed a liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, has been a critic of the oil sands and the Keystone XL pipeline.

In June 2010, I watched Podesta make candid and scathing remarks about the environmental impacts of oil sands extraction, which he called “polluting, destructive, and expensive.” Speaking in front of Canadian diplomats and others at an industry-sponsored discussion on the “greening” of the oil sands, he dismissed the whole notion as “more PR than reality.” That day, Podesta did not explicitly call on Obama to reject the pipeline, but he did several times advocate against a “hurried” review by the State Department (this was back in 2010 — three years later, it’s far to say the process has not been hurried.)

Here is the full text of his speech. The Washington Post has a more detailed analysis of what his arrival may mean for climate policy.

As for the Keystone XL review process: the State Department is still working on a final environmental impact statement that will say, among other things, whether the administration believes that the project meets Obama’s stated criterion of not “significantly exacerbating” carbon pollution. (Draft reports have said the pipeline will not significantly increase oil sands production because of the capacity of rail to carry crude oil.) The question is whether the final report will alter that conclusion. Some pipeline supporters expect the report to come by the end of this year, with Obama’s decision on the permit for the cross-border pipeline a few months later. However, the State Department’s inspector general has been investigating allegations of conflict of interest by an outside company that was contracted to write the environmental impact statement, and some observers expect that the internal probe could lead to a delay of the final environmental impact report into 2014.




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Keystone skeptic to advise Obama

  1. “…Obama’s stated criterion of not “significantly exacerbating” carbon
    pollution. (Draft reports have said the pipeline will not significantly
    increase oil sands production because of the capacity of rail to carry
    crude oil.)”

    This is such a pointless and idiotic distinction, The point is there will be a lot more of this carbon heavy oil out there that someone, somewhere is going to burn – increasing GHGs.
    That is, unless it can be demonstrated this new production is off setting something worse – it isn’t; notwithstanding Ezra or Joe O’s moronic assertions to the contrary.

    • The heavy oil coming from Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Sands Belt is chemically very similar to Alberta’s deposits. Production from Venezuela has slowed over the years. This oil was predominately imported to the US Gulf Coast refineries, so now there is excess heavy-oil refining capacity. The Keystone XL Pipeline is to bring in Alberta heavy oil to replace the lost Venezuelan heavy oil.
      Now that Chavez is gone it will be interesting to see if Venezuela can re-build its decimated oil industry. If they can, that will definitely increase GHG emissions.

      • I find that argument just too convenient – they’re slowing down, look we can replace them at net GHG growth.
        Do you have evidence of this slow down? Oliver is out to lunch claiming there’s an environmental upside to pushing out Venezuelan crude; they will just find other markets if the demand is there. Obviously it is, or what the hell are we doing pushing for this?

        • I found it about 18 months ago in an “Economist” magazine story. As the world economy slowly recovers and grows, Venezuela will almost certainly increase its production, as will almost everyone else (Russia, OPEC, North Dakota, etc). GHG emissions will certainly rise.

          I don’t see how the Obama Administration can use rising GHG levels as an excuse to kill Keystone XL (at least the part of it coming from Canada. The Texas-to-Oklahoma leg of Keystone actually started pumping just this week). Their Bakken production in North Dakota/Montana is rising much faster than Alberta’s.
          Fuel cells are coming out in 2014. Maybe this whole issue will be moot in few years.

          • I think you put your finger on the politics of this. American production is rising and Obama is committed to getting under the Copenhagen promise[ apparently the US is on track while we aren't]so there is a real danger they may say no to Keystone if it threatens their effort, or even worse if it is seen as competition. That’s shitty politics and bad luck for Canada if it happens. But Harper and his Calgary pards have to take some responsibility for f**cking this big time. If we had even a modest CT the pipeline would probably be done by now.
            This doesn’t take anything away from my larger point. To argue that increasing production in order to fill the pipeline will not result in an increase in GHGs at the consumer end is counter intuitive, particularly when there is no sign demand for oil is going to decline anytime soon.

  2. The writing is on the wall, folks….clue in.

    • That’s right, there’s oil enough for everyone. Wahoo!

      • There is something about oil that makes people crazy. It’s worse than gold fever used to be.

        • Its jealousy. Alberta has the oil and other people are jealous.

          • That’s another Alberta myth….along with the idea they’re all cowboys.

  3. Meanwhile, tarsands oil is being shipped by rail instead.

    Since selling/using oil is legal, the Obama govt can not stop tarsands oil from reaching market. He can only stop it from reaching market by pipeline.

    Saying ‘no’ to Keystone XL will not reduce oil usage but will keep the money flowing to unstable, undemocratic regimes.

  4. When will science illiterate Canucks finally understand that CO2 emissions are irrelevant to the earths climate? This isn’t 2009 anymore, the rest of the world has moved on. Lol!

    Whether the pipeline is approved or not means nothing. Industrious Canadians will find an ingenious way to sell their oil to someone, no matter what. And rightly so.

    I hope Alberta extracts every drop of of their good clean oil and every cubic meter of gas they have underground. Sell it all, baby!

    Show the rest of Canada how its done. Go Alberta Go!

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