WASHINGTON — The prospects dimmed for the Keystone XL pipeline seeing the light of day, with a significant twist Tuesday in the years-long debate over the Canada-to-Texas oil project.
The cause: Hillary Clinton.
The current Democratic frontrunner — who leads most presidential polls — made her long-awaited announcement about her stand on the project.
Her verdict: “I oppose it,” she told a town-hall-style meeting in Iowa.
“I oppose it because I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change.”
It’s a stunning shift for a politician who’d previously said she was favourably inclined to it, and the latest example of the ever-strengthening political headwinds it’s encountered.
The announcement puts a severe dent in the plan of pipeline supporters to wait for the next president, should Barack Obama reject it as most expect.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly voiced that hope. He’s suggested that if Obama says no a future president will eventually say yes — because he says the project, which he’s previously called a “no-brainer,” still makes sense.
Keystone would carry more than one-fifth of all of Canada’s oil exports to the United States, connecting to the already-built southern leg of the pipeline.
It would carry that oil in a cleaner way than trains, according to a finding by Clinton’s own State Department which has concluded that greenhouse-gas emissions would be 28 to 42 per cent lower with the pipeline.
But opponents mounted a vigorous campaign to pressure Democratic politicians—especially Obama and Clinton—in the hope that blocking oil infrastructure might hasten a transition to a cleaner economy.
Clinton’s announcement will thrill many progressive Democrats. It will be controversial, however, with more centrist and certainly with conservative voters.
Keystone became a presWidential election issue within an instant of Clinton’s announcement. A Republican candidate for president happened to be sitting in an interview chair on Fox News when news of Clinton’s position was broadcast.
“Why?” was the reaction of Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“You know why? Because she runs a campaign where she appears to serve interest groups.”
If she was hoping to bury the news on a busy day, it was a spectacularly timed news dump. Headlines about Clinton’s announcement streaked across TV screens and popped up on smartphones while Pope Francis was being greeted at an airport tarmac during his first U.S. visit.