If US President Barack Obama is as good as his word on his administration's tough new emissions rules, his days of kicking the Keystone XL pipeline decision down the road for the next President to deal with may finally be over.
He may have no choice but to approve the pipeline.
That's because US energy demand will not simply die off because Obama's administration has imposed these new rules. And so the oil is coming. One way or another, by pipeline or by rail, it's coming. And it will come by means that will produce far more greenhouse gases than the worst nightmares of the Keystone XL pipeline's opponents.
It's already happening. Companies such as Valero Energy are already transporting Canadian oil by rail, and their current plan is to transport ever more.
"We have plans to build another rail off-loading facility at a different Gulf coast refinery that will allow us to bring even more heavy Canadian oil down there," says Valero Vice President Bill Day. "It's already taking place."
Nor will Valero Energy be the only company at the forefront of it. Without a clear answer on Keystone XL expected in the near future, TransCanada has begun making its own plans to transport Canadian oil into the United States via rail.
“We are absolutely considering a rail option,” TransCanada CEO Ross Girling has declared. “Our customers have needed to wait for several years, so we’re in discussions now with them over the rail option.”
This confronts Obama with a quandary: will he approve Keystone XL, or will he face greenhouse gas-belching diesel trains pulling their energy cargo to refineries on the Gulf Coast? If he's serious about his new emissions rules, the answer is obvious.
Then again, Barack Obama has not been a President who has proven to be truly serious about much of anything.