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Obama announces leaving major XL Keystone Pipeline decision making to Kerry

President Barack Obama addresses the XL Keystone Pipeline during his interview with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, Feb. 2, 2014; the interview aired on The O'Reilly Factor, Feb. 3, 2014
President Barack Obama addresses the XL Keystone Pipeline during his interview with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, Feb. 2, 2014; the interview aired on The O'Reilly Factor, Feb. 3, 2014
Fox News

The major news of the second part of the Bill O'Reilly and President Barack Obama Super Bowl interview that aired on Monday evening, Feb. 3, 2014 during the regularly scheduled The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News, came from their conversation on the XL Keystone Pipeline. The State Department released the Environmental Impact Statement, a report on Friday, Jan. 31 an "11-volume environmental impact study" on the Pipeline. During the interview with O'Reilly was the first time the President addressed the report's findings. After a three-month review Secretary of State John Kerry will make his final recommendation to President Obama.

The report determined that other current methods of transporting the crude oil from Alberta Canada to Texas, was more detrimental than the pipeline itself. The report also concluded constructing the pipeline would create 42,100 direct and indirect jobs and only 50 jobs once the project is completed. Mostly importantly the report stated; "Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios." Kerry has a three-month "review process" in which with the other relative agencies will submit their opinions, before he makes a final recommendation to President Obama.

O'Reilly asked the President if he intends give a go to the project; "Keystone Pipeline, a new study comes in, environmental impact negligible, 42, 000 jobs. You're going to OK it, I assume." Obama has repeatedly said that that the environmental issue relating to the pipeline has been his major concern, stating previously he would approve the project in his June 2013 speech on climate change "only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."

The Republican Congress, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH thinks President Obama is "out of excuses." Boehner also stated; "Middle-class families and small businesses continue to struggle in this economy, and the president's refusal to back this job-creating project is hurting our economy." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky pressured Obama; "So, Mr. President, no more stalling - no more excuses. Please pick up that pen you've been talking so much about and make this happen."

While the Senate chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA still vehemently opposes the pipeline; "I will not be satisfied with any analysis that does not accurately document what is really happening on the ground when it comes to the extraction, transport, refining and waste disposal of dirty, filthy tar sands oil. My biggest concerns continue to be the serious health impacts on communities, and the dangerous carbon pollution that comes from tar sands oil."

The President objected to the number of jobs the pipeline would create; "Well, first of all, it's not 42,000. That's not correct. It's a couple of thousand to build the pipeline." Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has insisted that the pipeline would create jobs, so does Republicans in Congress, but still President Obama seems to disagree stating in July 2013 that it was "a blip relative to the need."

The State Department has taken most of the responsibility towards for approving the pipeline which will cost $5.4 billion, The White House has said President Obama's decision will rely heavily on Secretary of State John Kerry final recommendation, which was what Obama said in the Fox News interview; "Well, that, bottom line is… the process now goes agencies comment on what the State Department did, public's allowed to comment, Kerry's gonna… give me a recommendation."

There is a concern that because Secretary of State John Kerry has been a supporter of environmental issues and climate change through his political career, and his decision might be biased. However, the State Department promises he will make an objective decision; "Obviously, the Secretary has a long record on environmental issues.... But he’s going to make this decision based on a range of factors. There's a legal process that’s underway, and he will follow that legal process."

The President wants to remain away from the center conflict and blame on the highly contentious issue. The "1,179-mile pipeline" would carry oil from Alberta's oilsands through to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. Harper indicated that 830,000 barrels of oil would pass through the pipeline each day, creating thousands of jobs and a definite boon for the economies on both sides of the border, with the U.S. economy to benefit by $3.4 billion. Republicans in the US Congress' both houses; House of Representatives and Senate support building the pipeline. However the pipeline faces fierce opposition from environmentalists and Democrats; members of Obama's own party are opposed to its construction.

After the network turned towards the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 the cameras kept recording President Obama and O'Reilly for a second half of the interview. A little less combative, but still deeply ideologically divided the two argued over the XL Keystone Pipeline State Department report published on Friday, Jan. 31, the persistent poverty problem in America, and Fox News fairness to the President, and the liberal and conservative divide over "big government" versus "self-reliance." The less sensational interview no longer had to stand out and compete with the Super Bowl, so it became a little more civilized, with less talking over each year and the two even agreed three times, a monumental break through.

The first part of the interview aired on Sunday, Feb. 2 before the Super Bowl. The conservative Fox News' live interview taped at the White House focused on issues most Americans and news media have long forgotten, but remain much alive on the Fox News network, including the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya and the IRS scandal that as the President pointed have been the basis of numerous Congressional hearings with no wrong doing found. Never mind the disastrous rollout of the health care law and in general the Affordable Care Act, which perennially remains opposed by Republicans.


Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.

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