After the House of Representatives passed a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the Senate had its turn to vote on its own version last night, but the ayes fell just one vote short of the 60 necessary to avoid a filibuster. Democrats wary of alienating their green base stuck to their guns, voting against the bill that was proposed by a fairly desperate and potentially outgoing Senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu, who had hoped to use Keystone maneuvering as a way to motivate voters ahead of a December 6th runoff vote.The failed vote means little, as the new Congress is likely to pass this come January. It does kick the Keystone can just a bit further down the road for the President, though, who many believe would have vetoed the bill had Congress passed it. Come January, he may indeed exercise that veto, using a Nebraska court’s pending decision (also due in January) as a fig leaf to justify his move.Taking a step back, though, it’s difficult to understand how we arrived at this absurd point, some six years after Keystone initially proposed the project. The pipeline project was seized upon by the environmental movement as a make-or-break issue for the President’s green legacy, despite the fact that the State Department, operating under the simple logic that Canada’s oil sands crude will find a way to market whether the pipeline is built or not, has said repeatedly that Keystone will not have a net impact on global emissions. Indeed, a green argument can be made for constructing the pipeline: it would channel Canadian oil sands crude down to American gulf coast refineries more safely and efficiently than the trucks and rails on which it’s currently riding.We don’t know for certain how President Obama would have acted had the bill passed now at the behest of the Democratic Senator from Louisiana. But we have to assume that the new, combative President we have seen since the midterms will relish sticking his finger in the eye of the incoming congress by sending the bill back when it passes next year. It’s a pity: there is an important debate to be had about energy policy in this country. The desperate posturing over Keystone is not that debate.
Greens Dig InThe Futile Symbolism of Keystone