When you consider President Barack Obama is in the re-election scrap of his life, with polls showing a chihuahua named Muffy could beat him later this year, it is almost enough to make you laugh that he sacked the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
In one fell swoop -- apparently only to appease environmentalists, far-left Dems and other questionable sorts -- Obama blundered terribly.
In blocking the line, he insulted our closest ally, handed the GOP an election-day present and alienated some of his staunchest union supporters. He said "no" to 6,000 to 20,000 jobs. He said "no" to an economic boost. He added to the list of what the GOP can say he is not: He is not for America. He is not for jobs. He is not for supporting Canada, our closest ally.
The GOP candidates, not being complete dummies, have endorsed the project. While I seldom agree with Newt Gingrich, he was right when he said while campaigning in South Carolina that Obama's decision on Keystone was a "stunningly stupid thing to do."
Obama this past week -- despite a Feb. 21 hurry-up deadline inserted in a congressional two-month payroll tax cut extension -- decided he would not issue the necessary permit for construction of the pipeline extension that would carry bitumen from Alberta's Athabasca Oil Sands to Gulf Coast refineries.
Who wanted the project? Trade and labor unions. Folks who need work. Businesses. Various groups and associations and lawmakers and chambers of commerce. But a small, vocal, green faction of Obama's base -- a faction perpetually vexed with him for not being leftist enough? Not so much.
Obama gave that portion of his base a hug, shrugged off the trade and labor unions -- yesterday's news for Dems, anyway -- and tried to set up Congress as schnooks for setting the "arbitrary" Feb. 21 deadline.
The president indicated in November there were fears a leak in the line could endanger the Ogallala aquifer under the Nebraska Sandhills and eight other states. Nebraska and TransCanada, the line's builder, said they may be able to agree on a new route, but the Obama administration wants at least a year to study any new route. Congress inserted the Feb. 21 route decision deadline to move things along.
It is unclear what Obama will do -- block Keystone permanently or adopt a longer time line, perhaps sometime in 2013, long after the election. The 700,000 barrels daily the line would have carried likely will go to China, and while it probably would not have have ended up in the U.S. anyway, the pipeline would have helped alleviate a pipeline bottleneck in Cushing, Okla., America's oil tank farm. Canada gets paid either way. China gets oil it might not otherwise have gotten. We all continue to haul oil in tankers. But the real damage is to U.S.-Canada relations, jobs and the economy.
Oddly, the Obama administration once was infatuated with the project. The State Department issued a mostly complimentary environmental impact statement in August -- the project contained "limited adverse environmental impacts" -- and approval seemed certain. Then, activists went to work. In a November demonstration, thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., surrounding the White House. The message: No money, no grassroots help if Keystone won an administration go-ahead.
The State Department ordered a new route.
Keystone opponents hail Obama's decision as a victory and will continue to fight the line, using emotion and the same numbing propaganda they trot out to block natural resources development anywhere and everywhere in the United States. Despite their yammering, Canada's tar sands oil, whether it comes here or goes someplace else, will not destroy the world's environment in the next thousand years or so and life will go on.
For a nation with an energy policy as schizophrenic as ours -- face it, the Volt is a miserable flop -- and an unending thirst for oil controlled in many instances by people we should be shooting at, not doing business with, it is hard to grasp the president's unwillingness to stand up to his base in this instance because it involves our most trusted trading partner.
But even in the ongoing political furor over Keystone XL, there is occasional humor: The president's Jobs Council wants him to expand fossil fuel production by "allowing more access to oil, gas and coal opportunities on federal lands" in the U.S.
It is almost enough to make you laugh.
Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.