After hovering for years in political limbo, the long-proposed Keystone XL pipeline, intended to move heavy Canadian crude oil through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico and ultimately out into the world market, was brought to ground on Nov. 6 by President Obama. After noting that Secretary of State John Kerry had completed the State Department review of the proposal and determined that the pipeline “would not serve the national interest of the United States,” President Obama simply said, “I agree with that decision,” bringing years of political drama to an end.
The president said that the United States is now a global leader in action against climate change. “And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership. And that’s the biggest risk we face—not acting.”
According to the president, the State Department ultimately rejected Keystone because the pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to the U.S. economy and would not lower U.S. gas prices. He added that “shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security.”
Reacting to the White House call on Keystone, Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, said, “President Obama’s decision...is another sign of the growing awareness that business as usual with regards to fossil fuels is not sustainable.
“As Pope Francis said in ‘Laudato Si’,’’ we need to begin to envision a new future for our children and to begin to reduce our use of fossil fuels.” Mr. Misleh added, “It seems to me that we have to accompany this big and symbolic ‘no’ with an affirmative and actual ‘yes’ on what we can do to not only reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but to invest in and deploy cleaner, more sustainable energy technology and sources.”
Mr. Misleh said that the Catholic community, with its size and resources, “ought to quickly become a leader in this new, exciting and sustainable future...to show our love of the Creator through love of creation.”
In his statement the president said that debate about the Keystone Pipeline “has occupied what I, frankly, consider an overinflated role in our political discourse.”
“While our politics have been consumed by a debate over whether or not this pipeline would create jobs and lower gas prices,” he said, “We’ve gone ahead and created jobs and lowered gas prices.” He described the pipeline as a symbol “too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter.”
“And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others,” he said.
Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, described himself and the members of the network as “elated” by the apparent end of the proposed pipeline. He said the decision was long overdue.
“This sends a real strong signal going forward to Paris about [the U.S.] commitment to bring about serious action on climate change.” Carolan was referring to the upcoming U.N. sponsored conference aimed at hashing out national commitments to respond to the various threats of global warming, which begins at the end of November.
Mr. Carolan said that the president’s decision reflects the culmination of six years of grassroots mobilization and coalition building, “groups that you would never think could work together coming together” to resist the pipeline. Remembering scores of demonstrations and hundreds of arrests, he said, “It’s been a long battle.”
Mr. Carolan recalled the mockery endured by activists standing against Keystone’s formidable alliance of industry and political interests in the early days fighting against the project. “People said resistance was a waste of time, that this was a done deal, that there was no way we could stop it. This just goes to show you that—with coalition building, coming together, taking it out onto the streets—things can happen, things can change.”