President Barack Obama downplayed the economic impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline in a Monday night interview on Comedy Central.
“Keystone is going through an evaluation process,” Obama told “The Colbert Report” in his boilerplate response. “What I’ve said is… if we look at this objectively, we’ve got to make sure that it’s not adding to the problem of carbon and climate change.”
Obama then went a step further, reiterating his argument that Keystone XL will only create temporary jobs and that it would not help lower gas prices. He asserted that the pipeline would be a win for Canada, not the U.S.
“These young people are going to have to live in a world where we already know temperatures are going up, and Keystone is a potential contributor of that,” Obama said. “We have to examine that, and we have to weigh that against the amount of jobs it’s actually going to create, which aren’t a lot.”
“Essentially there’s Canadian oil passing through the United States to be sold on the world market,” Obama added. “It’s not going to push down gas prices here in the United States, it’s good for Canada, it could create a couple thousand jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline. But we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”
Obama’s Keystone comments come just weeks after Senate Democrats voted down a bill that would have approved the pipeline. The bill was introduced by Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in a last-minute attempt to distance herself from Obama ahead of her December runoff election.
Landrieu lost her runoff election to Republican opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy by an 11-point margin.
Republicans have vowed to push Keystone’s approval again next year when they take control of both chambers of Congress. The GOP wants to put Obama in a tough position by making him veto a Keystone bill.
“Let’s be clear about this. A Keystone pipeline veto would send the signal that this president has no interest in listening to the American people,” said House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican.
“Vetoing an overwhelmingly popular bill would be a clear indication that he doesn’t care about the American people’s priorities. It would be equivalent of calling the American people stupid,” Boehner said.
Keystone XL would transport oil sands from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The southern leg of Keystone XL is already completed and in operation, only the northern leg crossing the U.S.-Canadian border is languishing as it needs approval from the White House.
Environmentalists and most Democrats have opposed Keystone XL, saying it will damage the environment and would exacerbate global warming. Pipeline critics have also tried to label the pipeline as an export pipeline that would not benefit Americans.
“Understand what this project is,” Obama told reporters in Burma last month, taking a cue from Keystone critics. “It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. That doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”
But fact-checkers have called into question claims that Keystone is simply an export pipeline. Politifact ruled Obama’s claim as “mostly false.”
“The general consensus among experts, as well as the State Department, is that American refineries would be the primary buyers of crude oil transported through the Keystone XL pipeline, by a vast margin,” according to Politifact.
“Some Keystone XL critics have a point that American refineries would likely export some of the products that they make with crude oil transported by the pipeline,” Politifact noted. “The State Department says, however, that product exports are already increasing, and that trend would likely continue independent of a new pipeline. Additionally, American refineries tend to keep more products in the country than they export.”
Obama’s own State Department even reported in their review of Keystone XL that it would not be “economically justified” for the project to move fuel through America’s refinery-rich heartland just to export it abroad.
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