The furor over fracking aside, the large environmental controversy du jour is the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry “dirty” fuel from the Canadian tar sands to waiting markets and refineries in the U.S. The past few months have seen the administration vacillate repeatedly on the issue, and it has just announced that it is putting off any decision until after next year’s election. From the New York Times:
The Obama administration, under sharp pressure from officials in Nebraska and restive environmental activists, announced Thursday that it would review the route of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, effectively delaying any decision about its fate until after the 2012 election. […]The move is the latest in a series of administration decisions pushing back thorny environmental matters beyond next November’s presidential election to try to avoid the heat from opposing interests — business lobbies or environmental and health advocates — and to find a political middle ground. President Obama delayed a review of the nation’s smog standard until 2013, pushed back offshore oil lease sales in the Arctic until at least 2015 and blocked new regulations for coal ash from power plants.
The President may think he’s dodging a bullet by putting off his decision until after the election, but he has given the GOP a big pre-Christmas present, one that will go on giving as long as unemployment is a major political issue.The nexus of environmental policy and jobs has been a kind of Bermuda Triangle for this administration, where good intentions go awry and the best laid plans misfire. The failure of Solyndra demonstrated the poverty of “green jobs” initiatives, while the economic success of states like North Dakota and Texas are a testament to the continued effectiveness of old-style brown jobs. The President may be retreating from his failed green jobs plans, but still appears reluctant to embrace the more successful brown ones.If times are good by 2012, voters may vote their green hopes. If the economy is (as seems likely) still a problem, they will be voting their less verdant fears. This may be one can the White House will come to regret having kicked down the road.