Obama Speech (Mostly) Good News for Keystone

Both supporters and opponents of pipeline find reason to cheer
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2013 9:09 PM CDT

The big part of President Obama's climate-change strategy unveiled today was indeed his promise to put emissions limits for the first time on the nation's power plants. (See highlights of that and four other key points at the Week. Click for the full transcript of the speech or for the White House's own highlights). But the president also made headlines with his statement about the proposed Keystone oil pipeline: He promised to kill the project if studies showed it would "significantly" worsen greenhouse gas emissions. He did not, however, spell out what he means by "significantly," which helps explain why both "opponents and backers of the pipeline found support for their positions in his remarks," reports the New York Times.

Politico, however, suggests that those who want the pipeline built should be happiest because of what the president didn't mention: "His own State Department has already indicated that the pipeline can meet that standard." (That finding was in a draft report; the final version is due soon.) Tilting the balance a bit more toward the pipeline getting a green light: The Canadian government and oil industry, along with Keystone operator TransCanada were pleased with the president's remarks, reports Wall Street Journal. Other odds and ends from the speech:

  • Al Gore called it "by far the best address on climate by any president ever," and hoped the issue would become the focus of Obama's time left in office. "The hard truth is that the maximum that now seems politically feasible still falls short of the minimum necessary to actually solve the climate crisis."
  • Carbon tax? Michael Shank at US News & World Report says Obama is thinking too small. "2013 is no time for a small pitch on things like power plant carbon parameters." The plan is "merely more of the same and most of it is safe." Shank wanted to see a carbon tax. (At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum thinks Obama might be using the threat of new regulations to get leverage on Congress to pass such a tax.)

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