With the 2012 presidential election behind him, President Barack Obama is under increasing pressure to make an official call on the Keystone XL project once and for all, even as protests around the country opposing the pipeline increase in their fervor.
Obama is facing pressure from all sides concerning the fate of the project, one that would see a pipeline stretch from Canada through the Midwestern United States in order to easily transport crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in Texas.
On one side, politicians and other activists are pushing for approval of the $7 billion project, one that would ease domestic oil concerns while providing thousands of new jobs in an economy that is sorely lacking them. On the other side are environmentalists who are concerned about the damages caused by the extraction processes in the Canadian oil sands, making for a finished product that is called “dirty fuel” by those opposing the pipeline.
“The broader climate movement is absolutely looking at this administration’s Keystone XL decision as a really significant decision to signal that dirty fuels are not acceptable in the U.S.,” said Danielle Droitsch, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a group that lobbies for ecological awareness in natural resource development.
The debate isn’t a new one, beginning even as the Keystone XL project was being considered, and leading to a previous block on construction of the pipeline in order to reroute its path around sensitive ecological areas. While that change didn’t require Obama’s approval, he gave it anyway, a fact that leads most analysts to assume that the entire project will, likewise, get the president’s approval early in the new year, opening the door to a new era of fuel importing that looks north instead of east for its source.
Still, with the official decision remaining up in the air, those with an interest in the planet’s well being are being sure to make their voices heard.
“At a time when we are desperately trying to bend the emissions curve downwards, it is wrong to open up a new source of energy that is more carbon intensive and makes the problem worse,” said former vice-president Al Gore, an outspoken opponent of the Keystone XL project.