“Keystone pipeline: Obama’s unpleasant options” – Politico, 31 January 2014

It is still unknown whether Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, but after the State Department’s January report on Keystone XL, it is safe to say that Obama will eventually authorize it. It is also safe to say that Obama’s choice will anger his liberal base—the pipeline involves an oil extraction process that expends more greenhouse gas emissions than any other means of production. Moreover, there is a big chance that the pipeline could break.

But advocation efforts by pipeline builder TransCanada—backed by the American Petroleum Institute—and conservatives are relentless, the former promoting the jobs the pipeline will creates, and the latter blaming Obama for US unemployment rates and high gas prices. There is no promise that the pipeline would help with either issue, or that these groups’ lobbying efforts are doing anything to sway Obama.

It’s easy to see why Obama is taking his time. If he outright rejects the proposal, he could face major backlash from the GOP for the remainder of his term. In order to take that extra anti-Obama talking point out of the conservatives’ arsenal, and to dodge any kind of disagreement with Canada, some moderate Senate Democrats are voicing their approval of the pipeline. This might not be a redeeming factor for Obama—the Senate Democrats’ approval or his own—when it comes to the GOP’s views on his energy and climate policies, namely the Climate Action Plan.

Ultimately, the choice is up to Obama; the Keystone Pipeline falls under Obama’s purview, as an executive order. While he gave a nod to natural gas and climate-altering policies during his SOTU speech, Obama didn’t comment on the pipeline. Stalling a decision has proved to be in Obama’s favor—the constant bickering between the GOP and environmentalists will allow the administration to follow up on other climate policy plans without the watchful eye of the public.

A little wait may be good, but we should not prolong the decision. All the major elements of this project—cost, jobs, environmental and strategic—are sensitive issues. It is time to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring the world’s third largest oil supply to US from friendly NAFTA country Canada, with whom we share the globe’s largest land border. Let us stop sending petrodollars to Middle East and Venezuela, but rather share the wealth within our own continent.

See also:
Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 18, 2014

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“Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement” – New York Times, 24 January 2014

Since June 2011, environmentalists have been rallying together to stop the approval of the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline — XL meaning express line — which would send 800,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Canada sand formations to Texas refineries. Though it is unknown if Obama will authorize the project, environmentalists have taken their protests directly to the him.

In addition to transporting hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day, the pipeline will also involve an oil extraction process that expends more greenhouse gas emissions than any other means of production. Those in favor of the pipeline say that the oil will be transported regardless; without the pipeline, it would probably be carried by railway, which would cause more pollution.

The pipeline has been an issue that has banded all American environmentalists together, allowing climate change organizations, like 350.org, to grow to double its size in just two short years. People from all economic and financial backgrounds have donated time, energy and money to the cause, merging national and grassroots environmental groups who often argue over attention and resources.

Keystone XL would create a bypass to the Gulf of Mexico and would expand TransCanada’s current Keystone pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Nebraska, Illinois and Oklahoma; Keystone XL would be a more direct pipeline across the US, to Texas. TransCanada and ally American Petroleum Institute have taken the matter into their own hands by running TV and radio ads advocating the many jobs the pipeline will create.

Whether environmentalists’ protests are successful or not, it is easy to agree that the pipeline issue has forever changed American environmental politics, allowing various environmental groups to rally together, and forming a durable infrastructure.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 31, 2014

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“Obama’s Speech Softens Tone on Climate Change” – Wall Street Journal, 29 January 2014

It seems as if the President is relaxing on climate change, when, during his January 28 SOTU speech, he addressed how much natural gas has helped the environment, specifically by reducing carbon emission pollution and inciting businesses to invest $100 million. However, Obama’s statements weren’t directed to environmental groups, who have remained his most loyal allies. It seems that oil and natural gas will be crucial to America’s energy future.

Just last year, at the 2013 SOTU, Obama stated that he was willing to take climate policy into his own hands and wouldn’t support the use of fossil fuels; back then, many still believed that climate change wasn’t real. Now that that debate is over and Obama has introduced his Climate Action Plan, environmentalists aren’t so mad that he gave a nod to natural gas, as they see Obama pushing the US towards a more sustainable energy future.

Obama sees the matters of fossil fuels, oil, natural gas, coal and clean energy as inextricably linked to jobs and energy independence. Although environmentalists aren’t exactly upset with the SOTU speech, it didn’t pacify any of their concerns regarding the pending Keystone XL pipeline or proposed regulations on emissions. Obama also failed to commend the EPA by name, an agency whose role has been vital in his Climate Action Plan. What we can take away from the President’s speech is that while climate change is undeniable, so too is natural gas.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 29, 2014

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“Shale-Oil Boom Puts Spotlight on Crude Export Ban” – 1 January 2014, Wall Street Journal

The flood of natural gas might have the US rethinking its ban on crude oil exports, which dates back to the 1970s.

The world’s biggest oil refinery is located in the US, along the Gulf Coast, and is pumping out an oversupply of crude. The abundance of oil is causing prices to crash, forcing producers to look at their other options — i.e. exporting. These last few months, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has been fighting to lift export restrictions, as is Exxon Mobil, the US’s largest energy company. US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has more or less agreed, noting that the bans were instituted during the period of an energy dearth, not an abundance.

Arguments on the ban pit environmentalists, producers, consumers and the government all against each other. Proponents contend that removing the ban will boost the US’s trade deficit; opponents want to retain supplies in the US so that we rely less on the Middle East; others worry about the negative effects of increased drilling on the environment and climate.

The US currently exports coal, electricity, gasoline, diesel and natural gas — everything, it seems, but crude. Crude production is on an upswing in the US, largely due to shale formations located in Texas and North Dakota. It’s predicted that these formations will generate around 7.7 million barrels/day in 2014, and, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), set to grow by 24% to 9.6 million barrels/day in 2019. The onslaught of oil could drive down prices, ultimately slowing the nation’s energy boom.

The only way Congress is likely to immediately act is if the ban induces layoffs of energy workers. Regardless, any revisions to the law won’t be immediate. But the new year might just be Exxon’s, and other major energy companies’, year.

We believe that US oil companies should be allowed to export crude oil as a tool lower trade deficit, and increase export-related high paying domestic jobs.

See also:
Exxon Presses for Exports

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 3, 2014

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