Letting the Air Out of the Keystone XL Pipeline Balloon

I guess there are some people in some places who will be upset by the President’s decision, announced today, to deny the Keystone XL Pipeline project a license. But gotta say, the air’s been leaking from that balloon for so long that I’m not sure how many folks will actually hear it pop.

The first big blow to the project was probably the huge drop in oil prices, which sank to the point that it’s not even clear much oil would flow through the pipeline.

The second big blow was the explosion of the idea that the project would be some sort of big economic boon. The official State Department estimate suggested these numbers (per the New York Times‘ Coral Davenport):

A State Department analysis concluded that building the pipeline would have created jobs, but the total number represented less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the nation’s total employment. The analysis estimated that Keystone would support 42,000 temporary jobs over its two-year construction period — about 3,900 of them in construction and the rest in indirect support jobs, like food service. The department estimated that the project would create about 35 permanent jobs.

Hell, yes, I’d melt the damn icecaps for 35 permanent jobs, wouldn’t you?

The final blow was likely the recent Canadian elections, which booted the project’s main booster, former prime minister Stephen Harper, from office. His successor, Justin Trudeau, didn’t even mention XL Keystone in his first official talk with Obama.

All in all, it’s mostly a symbolic victory for the grassroots environmentalists who opposed the project, and perhaps a symbolic asset for the United States in climate change negotiations. With the other side of the ledger shrinking steadily in recent months, that was enough to kill the project.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.