On Wednesday, President Obama rejected plans for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the gulf coast of Texas. He argued that a 60-day deadline set by Congress, driven by Republicans, did not permit time for sufficient analysis. He has a point, the project sparking much controversy, including unresolved concerns about a conflict of interest in the preparation of the environmental impact statement.
There is political advantage in going the extra mile, and in highlighting how congressional Republicans overplayed their hand, all but daring the president to say no with their short deadline, eager for the chance to complain about the White House putting the kibosh on 10,000 or more jobs.
Yet Republicans weren’t alone in fanning this confrontation. The president invited criticism, opening the door to partisan horseplay, with his obvious political calculation last fall, putting off a tough decision about the pipeline for 15 months, or into 2013, after the November election.
Better on the part of both sides would have been a deadline in the spring or summer. To be sure, that would land in the heat of the campaign. Yet the project has been under review for years. Another six months or so would have been sufficient.
What shouldn’t be missed is that the pipeline falls short of a clean call. There are complications, some arguing a smarter option would be a natural gas pipeline from Alaska, or a less expensive oil route from Canada to the West Coast. Know that Canada will mine the oil tar sands no matter the fate of the pipeline. What is needed is a reasonable process for concluding the decision-making. Unfortunately, neither the White House nor congressional Republicans had that in mind.