Photo via Shutterstock
In a landmark speech on climate change today, President Obama offered an insight into whether he’ll approve the controversial 1,700-mile pipeline, explaining that he will only approve the Keystone XL Pipeline if it is proven to not increase carbon emissions. In the run up to President Obama’s much-anticipated speech laying out his administration’s climate plan, observers speculated that Obama wouldn’t mention the Keystone Pipeline in the speech. Even a version of the speech that was leaked just hours before it was delivered made no mention of the pipeline. But in a surprise move, the president offered a hint at what his decision will be.
Although today’s speech didn’t put to rest the question of whether President Obama will approve the Keystone pipeline, it sounds as if he may be laying the groundwork for rejecting the controversial project. “Our national interest will be served only if this project does not exacerbate the impacts of carbon pollution,” Obama explained.
That statement still leaves the president some room to maneuver on either side of the issue, and it reframes the issue as one that hinges entirely on the amount of carbon pollution it will produce. As recently as March, the US State Department issued a report that suggested that the Keystone pipeline would have no significant impact on the environment. That report was met with extreme skepticism from prominent environmental groups, and in April the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would reassess the environmental impact of the proposed pipeline.
The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed 1,700-mile pipeline that would pump the world’s dirtiest crude oil from the northern Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Tapping into that oil would lead to the burning of an estimated 240 billion tons of carbon. And as NASA climatologist Dr. James Hansen has repeatedly said, adding all of that carbon to the atmosphere would likely mean “game over” for the climate. Given what we know about tar sands oil, it would be very difficult for the president to approve the pipeline without appearing hypocritical.