Look For Obama To Approve Keystone Pipeline - Right Before The Election

By Matthew Sheffield | April 5, 2012 | 3:32pm EDT

Prediction: While he's currently making a show of how the Keystone XL Pipeline needs more time before it can be approved and bashing anyone who disagrees, all signs are pointing to a future reversal shortly before the November election, in a last-ditch effort to drive down oil prices and make himself appear centrist.

The Obama administration has already shown that, when it comes to oil drilling, it has no problem with allowing political considerations to override science.In 2010, the Obama administration issued a report which – falsely – implied that independent engineering experts had recommended a six-month moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, they had not. But Obama ordered the moratorium anyway as a gift to his environmental extremist base, destroying thousands of jobs in the process.

The House Natural Resources Committee has now issued a subpoena for documents related to the drilling moratorium, documents which are likely to reveal the details of how the Obama administration put politics above science in stopping drilling in the Gulf.

At issue is the May 27, 2010 report prepared by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar  at the request of President Obama, entitled, "Increased Safety Measures for Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf." The report recommended an immediate six-month drilling moratorium.

While the administration said it never intended to mislead the public by leaving the impression that the call for a moratorium reflected the views of the technical experts engaged by the department in the preparation of the report, critics cried foul and the experts themselves quickly wrote a letter disavowing the moratorium as a sound idea.

"A blanket moratorium is not the answer," they wrote. "It will not measurably reduce risk further and it will have a lasting impact on the nation's economy which may be greater than that of the oil spill ... We do not believe punishing the innocent is the right thing to do."

Ironically, yesterday, Salazar said the subpoena was just “a distraction in the name of politics.”

Rep. John Fleming, R-Louisiana, a member of the Natural Resources Committee, responded, calling Salazar's comment an indication of "the clueless arrogance of the Obama Administration."

"The drilling moratorium that was imposed in 2010 wiped out jobs in the energy sector and among Louisiana small businesses that support the energy industry. In addition, our domestic energy production from deep-water drilling was halted by the Obama policy, leaving repercussions that impact energy prices still today," said Fleming.

"While the Secretary wants to dismiss this investigation, the fact is the administration imposed its moratorium after issuing a report in which false information was inserted. The American people deserve to know who in the administration authorized this."

With that as background, consider the politics of the Keystone pipeline. With gas prices above $4 a gallon across much of the country, and likely to remain high through the summer, Obama will be looking for ways to appear to be “doing something” about high gas prices, to deflect Republican attacks on that issue.

The pipeline has its opponents, but most Americans want it built – and believe that it will help increase the supply of oil and bring down prices at the pump.There are almost no single-issue environmental voters, and most of them aren't likely to switch to the Republican nominee if Obama crosses them on Keystone. A few may stay home, or vote Green Party, but Obama knows most Americans want the pipeline built, and most of those who oppose it won't be voting based on that issue. Sure, there are a few ultra-rich environmentalists who will be upset, but by October, Obama will have already taken their money and it'll be too late for them.

The geography of the proposed pipeline is another reason Obama will reverse his position shortly before the election. The currently planned pipeline route passes through Missouri, a swing state. It also passes very close by Iowa, a state which Obama won in 2008, also a swing state.

While the pipes won't go directly through Iowa, they will be close enough that many Iowa residents and businesses stand to benefit from its construction. The same is true for Minnesota, another Obama state in 2008 that he must keep to remain in the White House.

With the election still seven months away, Obama and the Democrats can still play politics with the issue, trying to deflect it with nonsensical issues like barring oil companies from using the same standard tax deductions available to all manufacturers. That issue allows Obama to demagogue the oil companies, though raising their taxes would make gasoline prices go up, not down.

But as Election Day nears, with gas prices still high, approving Keystone will be the only surefire way left for Obama to cause an immediate decrease in oil futures, leading to a price decrease at the pump – and allowing Obama to claim to be “doing something” about the price of gasoline. 

Can one be certain of this prediction? Of course not, but if Obama is as keenly focused on his reelection as the reports have said--he prioritizes it above everything else--he's very likely to approve Keystone XL.

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