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Keystone Fight Is About Much More
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The House is set to vote on the Keystone XL pipeline as their first order of business in the new Congress - and this time the newly-elected Senate is expected to have enough votes to break the anti-energy filibuster led by liberals Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, who is urging President Obama to stop the pipeline with a veto.
The merits of the project are well known, including over 40,000 jobs, more secure access to North American energy, and lower greenhouse gas emissions than the alternatives of moving oil to market by rail or tanker ships.
President Obama’s own jobs council famously advised: “Policies that facilitate the safe, thoughtful and timely development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects are necessary” - and yet this permit process has stalled now for a stunning six years.
The president himself said: “The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward” - and then his own State Department, led by Hillary Clinton, concluded that all three “no action” scenarios would have significantly higher emissions than approving the pipeline.
Although oil prices have sharply declined recently, major infrastructure projects are for the long term, and backing off based on market conditions now would play directly into the hands of the Saudis and other OPEC producers who hope to use low prices to disrupt North American competitors so they can raise prices again later.
So what’s the problem? Why did Democrats go to such enormous lengths to block this project last Congress and why is the president even now considering a veto?
The principal opponent of the pipeline is San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who made billions investing in fossil fuels abroad before becoming a crusading political activist opposing affordable energy in America - and heavily investing in taxpayer-subsidized green energy that competes with fossil fuels.
It was at an infamous fundraiser at his house nearly a year ago that he offered up to $100 million for Democratic candidates if they would block the pipeline. He largely made good on that promise, spending about $73 million, joined by a handful of like-minded donors but mostly from his own pockets.
In a 2013 talk at Berkeley, Steyer explained his obsession. “The biggest thing about Keystone is we have to make a change,” the biggest donor in American politics said.
“We have to make a decision to do something different... And if we do that, we’ll end up with a carbon tax or we’ll end up with some control of carbon. That’s a given,” Steyer said. “But the question is at what point do we decide we’ve had our Pearl Harbor moment?”
Got that? Steyer believes that if he can stop a major infrastructure project against the weight of all facts and logic, his goal of a massive new energy tax becomes easy.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer lined up with Steyer’s “Pearl Harbor” for more expensive energy in a recent interview, in which he outlined a series of messaging amendments - mostly protectionist trade measures - that Democratic leaders would use to create excuses for their rank-and-file members to vote no.
When interviewer Bob Schieffer asked Schumer: “If these amendments pass, you would still urge the president to veto this legislation?” Schumer responded “Well, yes.”
Are Democrats really willing to block billions of dollars of private investment and tens of thousands of union jobs on the hopes of future tax hikes and the wishes of a single mega-donor?
Let’s hope President Obama is willing to stand up to Steyer and sign the bill.
Mr. Kerpen is the president of American Commitment and the author of “Democracy Denied.” Kerpen can be reached at