As Congress heads back to work today, the new Senate Republican leadership has made it clear that approving the Keystone XL pipeline — which would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast for export to overseas markets — is top of their agenda.
In November, President Obama made his strongest statement against the project when he said the pipeline “doesn’t have an impact on US gas prices” and would not do much for jobs, as Republicans claim it will.
What has had an impact on gas prices is forces like supply and demand, among other factors, which has led to plummeting prices at the pump. Some pundits are wondering if Republicans are mistaken in their plans to make passing the legislation their first priority at “the moment the world is awash in oil,” as Kevin Drum put it at Mother Jones yesterday.
At the same time, the White House refuses to say whether Obama will veto the package or urge Democrats to vote against the legislation. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the president intends to “reserve judgement” until seeing “what language is included in that specific piece of legislation,” and cited the administration’s concerns with the contribution Keystone could make to carbon pollution.
So why is Obama really not offering to take steps against the pipeline? In an interview with Bill Moyers last year, environmental activist Bill McKibben talked about why the president would want to approve the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline, even though he is in theory “a good environmentalist.”
Like so many issues in politics today, McKibben says the answer basically comes down to money and power — in this case from Big Oil. “The American Petroleum Institute told the president two years ago, ‘you do what we say on Keystone or there’ll be political trouble,’” McKibben tells Moyers. “We’ll find out how scared he was.”
Watch the clip: