The President of the United States talks to the New York Times and the subject of Keystone XL is raised and the President is asked whether there is anything Canada could do to ease concerns about the environmental impact of the pipeline.
NYT: A couple other quick subjects that are economic-related. Keystone pipeline — Republicans especially talk about that as a big job creator. You’ve said that you would approve it only if you could be assured it would not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon in the atmosphere. Is there anything that Canada could do or the oil companies could do to offset that as a way of helping you to reach that decision?
MR. OBAMA: … Now, having said that, there is a potential benefit for us integrating further with a reliable ally to the north our energy supplies. But I meant what I said; I’m going to evaluate this based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere. And there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release.
NYT: And if they did, could that offset the concerns about the pipeline itself?
MR. OBAMA: We haven’t seen specific ideas or plans. But all of that will go into the mix in terms of John Kerry’s decision or recommendation on this issue.
The Harper government is now twice overdue on the promise of new regulations for the oil and gas sector and it’s now Leona Aglukkaq’s problem.
One move of note: last month, the President increased the official estimate for the social cost of carbon to $36 per tonne. What this amounts to is now subject to debate, but this does put the America estimate above the social cost assumed by the Canadian government.
Eric Posner wonders about where this is all headed.
The bottom line is this: The current SCC calculation embodies the worst of both worlds: too low from the standpoint of global well-being, too high from the standpoint of law. When power companies challenge the new climate regulations in court—we won’t have to wait long—they will argue that the rules fail a cost-benefit analysis. Courts don’t always demand cost-benefit analyses, but they sometimes do, and even if they don’t here, the arbitrary assumptions underlying the government’s number will bother them, as they should.
Only Congress can solve these problems—by passing a law, which unlike a regulation by the president could withstand legal challenge, and by authorizing an international agreement, which would ensure that foreign countries reciprocate our actions. But Congress doesn’t want to play. The best defense of the Climate Action Plan, then, is that by driving the United States down the path of costly and futile regulation or endless litigation, it may finally prod Congress to get into the game.
Kevin Drum’s theorizing might be relevant here.