Obama Made Up His Mind to Reject Keystone XL Way Back in 2013 | U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Nov 09, 2015 - 5:30pm

Obama Made Up His Mind to Reject Keystone XL Way Back in 2013


Senior Editor, Digital Content

Approving an oil pipeline should be a simple, boring process, and usually it is. But the Obama administration cynically turned the permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline into a highly politicized affair where facts didn’t matter.

George Will wrote earlier this year that President Obama’s mind has been “as closed as an unshucked oyster.” We now know how long that's been.

After President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, we learned from The Washington Post that President Obama and Secretary John Kerry decided to reject the project in 2013 and waited two years for an opportune time to make it known:

Several former administration officials said Friday that Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry had decided to block the project two years ago but waited for the legally required internal review, a revised permit application and, finally, a politically opportune time to announce the decision.

The president abandoned economics and science so his administration can maintain the “perception” of being a global leader on climate change. The State Department’s pathetic justification for tossing the project aside like a used hamburger wrapper reads:

While the proposed Project by itself is unlikely to significantly impact the level of GHG-intensive extraction of oil sands crude or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States, it is critical for the United States to prioritize actions that are not perceived as enabling further GHG emissions globally.

Facts didn’t matter. Only politics.

If you weren’t cynical enough already about this entire process, here's another fact. While the Obama administration played seven years of political football, the equivalent of 10 Keystone pipelines have been built with no objection from the administration or anti-energy activists, Yadullah Hussain reported in Canada’s Financial Post:

Crude oil pipeline mileage rose 9.1 per cent last year alone to reach 66,649 miles, according to data from the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL)  set to be released soon.

Between 2009 and 2013, more than 8,000 miles of oil transmission pipelines have been built in the past five years in the U.S., AOPL spokesperson John Stoody said, compared to the 875 miles TransCanada wants to lay in the states of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska for its 830,000-bpd project. By last year, the U.S. had built 12,000 miles of pipe since 2010.

According to the Brookings Institution, 150,000 miles of oil pipelines run under Americans’ feet. The full 1,200 length of the Keystone XL would make up 0.8% of the total. And as the State Department concluded, the pipeline would have minimal effects on the environment.


No one is demanding the thousands of miles of useful energy infrastructure be yanked out of the ground to maintain the perception of climate change leadership.

As for claims that blocking the Keystone XL pipeline would restrict Canadian oil development, that’s not been the case. “Canadian crude oil exports to the U.S. soared to 3.4 million barrels per day in August – a new record,” Hussain writes.

Again, throughout this process facts trumped politics.

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About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.