Commentary: Hydrocarbon Hypocrisy

Last November, President Obama, after years of slow walking, finally rejected the Keystone pipeline project. In announcing his decision, he put special emphasis on “dirtier crude oil” and went to some length to wrap his decision in the narrative of climate change and the imperative of moving to clean energy.
Now, the Obama State Department is supporting a pipeline in Kenya that will cost $18 billion and run from Kenya’s Rift Valley to a coastal terminal point. In commenting on the project, the US Ambassador to Kenya was enthusiastic about the US working with the private sector and governments to help Kenya get the financing needed for this project. While he didn’t identify which governments, it seems obvious that he was including the US. To reject a private sector project that would benefit the US and then use US dollars to help an project that will increase greenhouse gas emissions is both illogical and hypocritical.
It is hard to imagine that the Ambassador didn’t check with Secretary Kerry before supporting this project. So, we have a situation where the Secretary of State declares that Keystone is not in the national interest but helping Kenya raise $18 billion for its pipeline project is. If foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, what is the total lack of consistency? Hypocrisy, pure and simple!
This act of inconsistency is another piece of evidence that the Keystone decision had nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with Obama White House politics. Now that TransCanada is taking the Administration to arbitration charging that the President’s decision violates the North American Free Trade Agreement, support for the Kenyan pipeline might may be an important piece of evidence bolstering the TransCanada claim.
Helping Kenya with its energy and economic development makes sense and is in our long-term interest. But, that was also true of Keystone. Canada is one of our major trading partners and a strong ally. The TransCanada investment in the US, independent of the manufactured arguments of the Obama Administration, would have created jobs, helped the economy, and helped rationalize domestic refining industry.
As the global economy continues to struggle, perhaps teetering on the brink of another recession, energy and economic decisions that are driven by politics and ideology will inevitably make matters worse.