Since President Obama has promised in at least his last three State of the Union speeches that he would work to cut red tape in federal government, Jonah Goldberg is shocked to see that the Keystone pipeline still faces bureaucratic obstacles.
Laymen might have the impression that the president wants to cut red tape and take action on job-creating infrastructure, particularly oil and gas projects.
On Friday, the State Department issued a much-awaited study on the Keystone XL pipeline. It found that there would be a negligible effect on climate change — the president’s only expressed reservation about the project, which would create thousands of construction jobs and generate billions in tax revenue.
In fact, the study concluded that if the pipeline from Canada is not built, it could result in a significant increase in greenhouse-gas emissions. That’s because the alternative means (trucks, rail, etc.) of transporting the fuel — which Canada says will be pumped no matter what — are more carbon intensive than a pipeline.
So we’re a go, right? Au contraire, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough explained Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. The State Department study is but “one of many important inputs into the process.” Other departments get to weigh in. Which ones? Well, almost all of them, it seems: Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security, plus the Environmental Protection Agency. Those poor saps at Housing and Urban Development must feel like chopped liver.
But it gets funnier. “What the president’s role is now is to protect this process from politics,” McDonough said, “let the experts, the expert agencies, and the Cabinet secretaries make their assessments both of the study . . . as well as its impact on the national interest.”
It all sounds so reasonable. The only problem is that the Keystone XL pipeline has been under constant study since the U.S. extension was proposed in 2008. Friday’s State Department report — weighing in at eleven volumes! — was initiated for political purposes. In 2011, after extensive study, State called the pipeline the “preferred alternative.”