Theater of the Absurd

The editors of the Washington Post characterize the president’s foot-dragging on approval of the Keystone XL pipeline as “absurd”:

At this point, there is little doubt about the big picture. After two thorough environmental analyses, State Department experts determined that the pipeline’s impact probably would be minimal, even on climate change-inducing carbon dioxide emissions. The economic rewards of extracting Canadian oil are too attractive and the options for getting it out of the country are too numerous. We would rather see Canadian crude traveling a well-built, well-regulated pipeline in the United States than on the rail cars, barges and ocean tankers that will move it until cheaper options inevitably come online.

Let’s consider possible reasons for the president’s opposition to the pipeline. One possibility, frequently mentioned, is that his actions are being dictated by major donors.

Another possibility is that the president has a deep, visceral, unreasoning distaste for the dirty. Without delving too deeply into amateur psychology at a distance that would explain a lot including the administration’s war on coal and its relative disinterest in more dirty jobs which, sadly, are what many people actually do.

It is possible that the pipeline would produce profits for people he doesn’t like and that might be used against Democrats.

It is possible that the president is right and everybody else including me, the editors of the Washington Post, and all of the experts who’ve reported otherwise are wrong.

It is also possible that the president is invincibly ignorant.

Have I missed anything?

15 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw

    Don’t know. I predicted that the President would make a decision right after his re-election to kill the pipeline, as I didn’t know why the decision hadn’t been already made before it. So, I guess my assumption is that he cannot do so without jeopardizing the Senate, so we wait a little longer.

  • PD Shaw

    “a deep, visceral, unreasoning distaste for the dirty. ”

    So, your implying that he’s stuck in the anal stage of development? 😉

  • The problem with the foot-dragging is that it cedes the initiative to your political opposition.

  • So, your implying

    No, actually I don’t think it’s a likely explanation. I’m just trying to produce an exhaustive list.

  • TastyBits

    The oil flows south, but it is being transported using rail cars. The rail cars are owned by companies Warren Buffet had/has invested in. I am sure that this is just a coincidence.

  • ...

    Don’t know, don’t care anymore.

  • Guarneri

    The oil flows south, but it is being transported using rail cars. The rail cars are owned by companies Warren Buffet had/has invested in…………Buffet is a serial monopolist and regulatory capturer, and can be counted upon to say at convenient moments what the left likes to hear from a capitalist in return for, ahem, “consideration.”

    There, fixed it for you. 😉

  • Andy

    Another possibility is that he just doesn’t care about the issue too much and is making decisions based on domestic political factors.

  • Craig

    Payback against enemies? I have no idea if any of Obama’s enemies are in a position to make this remotely plausible in this particular case, but it’s an option that ought to be considered in any politician coming out of the Chicago School, together with the more common payback to friends.

    It also happens occasionally that an issue one side doesn’t care about all that much gets taken up by the other side so zealously that side A blocks it just to avoid giving them a victory.

  • PD, I sort of had the exact opposite view. He was waiting for the post-election to announce that he wasn’t going to kill it. In hopes of avoiding a depressed “What’s the point of voting for Democrats if they’re going to screw the environment just like Republicans?” turnout.

  • jan

    A big part of the President’s base are the AGW environmentalists crowd. Some friends of mine, who are part of this group, are very much against the pipeline and have said it would influence their vote should he ‘cave.’ Then their is the donor base, the liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, who puts his money where his politics are, which is against this pipeline from going forward. These opponents to Keystone must carry more weight than a collaboration with Canada or appeasing democratic senators supporting the pipeline, who are up for reelection in 2014.

  • Sam has brought up a very important point. There’s no objective definition of “affordable”. If you’re making a $5,000 a month house payment on an $85,000 salary, you won’t qualify for subsidies but anything but a pretty nominal premium amount won’t be affordable.

    In other words, what’s affordable for one person might not be affordable for another even if they’re the same, age, gender, in good health, and both making the same salary.

  • jan

    According to Rolling Stone, it has inside info about Obama’s final thoughts on the Keystone Pipeline:

    Although no final decision has been made, two high-level sources in the Obama administration told me recently that the president has all but decided to deny the permit for the pipeline


    Supposedly, this denial has everything to do with his renewed interest in global warming and aversion to coal and fossil fuel energy, even though the former produces 40% of our electricity generation.

  • TastyBits


    You might have noticed that the people who cry the loudest about science know the least about it.

    If you know the history of Galileo, this is exactly the same. The science was based upon consensus, peer reviews, and mathematical models. All the leading universities taught the same science, and all the professors were vested in it being correct.

  • Guarneri

    Some of you may have seen recent articles concerning improving US manufacturers competitiveness vis a vis China. I’ve been living it.

    There are several factors at work, that I have pointed out over the last couple years, but a key one is lower energy costs, especially natural gas. Why an administration supposedly “pivoting to jobs” would want to throttle this down can only be explained by pure political considerations or ideology that trumps the welfare of the unemployed, because the administration isn’t that stupid.

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