President Barack Obama’s big global warming speech on Tuesday straddled the fence on whether he will approve the popular Keystone pipeline, leaving both supporters and opponents of the project with renewed hope that the president with side with them.
Obama said “the net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project can go forward.”
Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council interpreted Obama’s statement as meaning the president intends to kill the Keystone pipeline.
“The president declared that he would not approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline unless the State Department could prove the pipeline would not significantly increase global warming pollution. Since the evidence clearly shows that the pipeline would indeed contribute to climate change, the president has taken a one giant step closer to rejecting this dangerous project,” wrote Beinecke.
But House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’s (R-OH) spokesperson Brendan Buck interpreted Obama’s comments differently.
“The standard the president set today should lead to speedy approval of the Keystone pipeline,” said Buck.
Obama’s ambiguous comments place the White House in a politically difficult position with the president’s environmental base supporters who view killing the Keystone pipeline as a critical fulfillment of his promises to combat global warming.
Further complicating Obama’s position has been the negative reaction by Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to Obama’s “war on coal,” as one White House adviser dubbed it.
“It’s clear now that the president has declared a war on coal,” said the West Virginia Democrat. “It’s simply unacceptable that one of the key elements of his climate change proposal places regulations on coal that are completely impossible to meet with existing technology.”
Manchin added: “These policies punish American businesses by putting them at a competitive disadvantage with our global competitors. And those competitors burn seven-eighths of the world’s coal, and they’re not going to stop using coal any time soon.”
In April, a Pew poll found broad bipartisan support for the Keystone pipeline, with 66% of Americans supporting the project.