Heavy Lobbying Before Keystone Oil Pipeline Decision | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Heavy Lobbying Before Keystone Oil Pipeline Decision

Play associated audio

The oil industry and environmentalists are fighting over the Keystone XL pipeline, and in this election year, President Obama is caught in the middle.

The industry says the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, would create jobs. Environmentalists worry it will lead to more pollution. Obama has until next month to make a decision, and that has both sides lobbying heavily.

The 1,700-mile pipeline would bring oil from Alberta's tar sands down through the middle of the U.S. to Gulf Coast refineries. When the company behind the pipeline, TransCanada, proposed it, executives had no idea it would be so hotly debated.

"The Keystone XL pipeline will be a presidential election issue and will likely play out much broader," observed Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, at a recent industry event in Washington, D.C.

Gerard predicts the pipeline issue will even show up in local political races. As if to ensure that, his group started running a TV ad this week in Midwestern states. It encourages people to call or write Obama, and tell him to approve the pipeline.

Ads from opponents, concerned about pollution associated with tar sands oil, are more difficult to find. They're generally low-budget affairs, like one on YouTube featuring hand puppets. It includes a portrayal of old men around a boardroom table plotting to get the pipeline approved by hiring "the best PR company money can buy."

Just a few months back, it looked like the Obama administration had found a way to put off the sticky election-year issues surrounding the pipeline. The State Department said it would spend more time exploring alternative routes for the pipeline in Nebraska. Many there had expressed concern that it would travel through the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.

That would have effectively delayed consideration of the project until after the 2012 election. But then Congress passed legislation forcing a decision by Feb. 21.

Now the lobbying campaigns are in full swing. Oklahoma's Republican Gov. Mary Fallin sent a letter to Obama on Tuesday. "I'm encouraging the president to consider signing the Keystone Pipeline agreement so that we can create economic stimulus for our national economy and put Americans back to work," Fallin tells NPR.

Pipeline supporters focus on the benefits of getting oil from a friendly neighbor like Canada, and on the thousands of workers who would get jobs during construction.

"In my opinion, the only thing standing in the way between more energy production in America, and job growth and more economic stimulus in our nation, is the president," Fallin says.

But environmentalists say there are more important issues to consider.

"This is not the right step forward if we want to be building a clean energy future and a clean energy economy in the United States," says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's International Program.

Casey-Lefkowitz says the pipeline would allow tar sands oil production in Canada to expand. She opposes that because she says it releases more pollution than traditional oil production.

"We've been encouraging our members to call the president and thank him for already standing up to big oil on this pipeline, and say that, essentially, we have his back, we know that he's going to do the right thing," Casey-Lefkowitz says. "We know that he's going to do the right thing and reject the Keystone XL pipeline."

Obama has not said which way he's leaning. As both sides wait for a decision, the lobbying campaign in the U.S. is growing more intense.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Picasso, Nazis And A Daring Escape In 'My Grandfather's Gallery'

As a little girl, Anne Sinclair knew Pablo Picasso. She talks with NPR's Scott Simon about why she didn't want the master to paint her picture, and her new memoir, My Grandfather's Gallery.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Go The Border To Court Voters

Republicans have won every statewide office in Texas for 20 years, but the growing Hispanic population tends to vote Democrat, and the GOP's survival may depend on recruiting Hispanic supporters.
NPR

Tech Week: Smartphone Privacy, Cyberstalking, Alibaba's Big Debut

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba makes the biggest debut on the NYSE ever. The details, and the other tech stories that piqued our interest, are in this week's roundup.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.