Obama delays oil pipeline plan, discards 20,000 jobs

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

Roughly 20,000 oil industry construction jobs are being thrown under Obama’s 2012 campaign bus, largely because the president needs to pump up his sagging support among the environmentalists.

The pitch came Thursday when President Barack Obama put his leadership behind a State Department plan to study alternative routes for the pipeline, which is intended to bring oil from Alberta in Canada to oil refineries along the Gulf Coast.

“We should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood,” said Obama’s afternoon statement.

The construction jobs, and the revenue from operating the Keystone XL pipeline, may now go to Canadian workers.

That’s because Canadian government officials are already planning to help build a competing pipeline from Alberta’s oil fields to new West Coast ports near Vancouver. The likely destination point is the port of Kitimat in British Columbia.

The U.S. Department of State will begun studying an alternative route for the Keystone pipeline, even though an earlier department study had concluded the proposed route is the best of several alternatives. The new study will delay any final approval until after the 2012 election, allowing Obama to boost his support among environmentalist groups, activists and voters.

But the delay may kill the U.S. segment of any pipeline, because the decision increases the environmentalist movement’s clout during any future round of approval disputes, and also spurs the development of a pipeline through Canada.

The job-killing decision was panned by GOP legislators and business groups.

“More than 20,000 new American jobs have just been sacrificed in the name of political expediency,” said a statement from Ohio Rep. John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“This is clearly a political decision and everyone knows it… Politics has trumped jobs in this decision and we can only wonder if the Administration’s delay will cause Canada to turn their pipeline west and ship their energy and American jobs elsewhere,” said  statement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But the decision helps the Democratic-allied green-energy industry, which is now reliant on government subsidies to compete against the oil energy industry.

The oil that would be pumped through the Keystone XL pipeline would make gas cheaper for drivers, and worsen the competitiveness of the green-tech companies.

The stock value of green-energy companies, and their supply of commercial investment, has already dropped in the last several months because investment analysts believe an Obama loss in 2012 will prompt GOP legislators to cut federal subsidies.

Before his 2008 election, Obama predicted he would raise oil-energy prices to spur the green-energy industry.

In Thursday’s pipeline statement, Obama cited his support for green energy industry, although he did not describe the Keystone pipeline as a threat to the green energy companies.

While the pipeline review is delayed, he said, “my administration will build on the unprecedented progress we’ve made towards strengthening our nation’s energy security, from responsibly expanding domestic oil and gas production to nearly doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, to continued progress in the development of a clean energy economy.”

The White House decided against the project even though the $7 billion to $10 billion construction project has been publicly supported by a series of industrial unions, including the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO. The unions supported the project because its construction would have employed up to 20,000 people. A spokesman for the pipe-builders union, the United Association, did not respond to questions from The Daily Caller.

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