One consequence of promoting an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy is that it will draw criticism from all sides, leaving neither pro-oil nor pro-alternative energy constituencies satisfied. This is exactly what President Obama appears to have accomplished on the second stop of his US energy tour this week. Standing in front of an expansive row of pipes at the Stillwater Pipe Yard in Cushing, Oklahoma yesterday, Obama announced that his administration would expedite the construction of the southern leg of the highly controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, which will run from Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas.
In what is being described by some as his worst speech ever, President Obama boasted that his administration has opened up millions of acres for oil and gas exploration. “We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore,” he said, according to ThinkProgress. “We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.” Indeed, it was an odd way to celebrate World Water Day.
Talk like that obviously won’t endear the president to environmentalists, and it doesn’t seem to be winning over many conservatives. Republicans were quick to point out that the president (thankfully) doesn’t really have the ability to jump-start the pipeline. Nonetheless, Native Americans gathered along the motorcade route to protest the construction of the pipeline.
“President Obama is an adopted member of the Crow Tribe, so his fast-tracking a project that will desecrate known sacred sites and artifacts is a real betrayal and disappointment for his native relatives everywhere,” said Marty Cobenais of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Tar sands is devastating First Nations communities in Canada already and now they want to bring that environmental, health, and social devastation to US tribes.”
Thursday’s announcement didn’t come as a big surprise, though; back in February TransCanada announced that it would move forward with the southern leg of the pipeline. The big question that remains is whether the US will allow the northern section, which runs through environmentally sensitive areas, to be built. At the Cushing speech, President Obama also indicated that he was not necessarily opposed to going forward with the northern portion of Keystone XL oil pipeline, but that he wants it to undergo more environmental review before it is approved.
Lead photo by White House photographer Pete Souza