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Editorial: Obama fails to lead by delaying decision on pipeline

President Obama’s decision last Thursday to postpone action on the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline that would carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta to Gulf ports in Texas is a smart political calculation only if he wins re-election. Otherwise, he fails as president to protect the environment, wean Americans off their over-dependence on oil-based energy, and sets in motion an energy policy (assuming any Republican president would approve the project) that favors the consumption of carbon-based energy rather than move toward an economy based on renewable energy.
That’s a huge disappointment, not only because he campaigned in the 2008 election to accomplish the latter but because he understands the science of climate change and embraces its message. His decision to kick-the-can down the road until 2013 exposes a lack of political courage to stand by those principles.
That’s not leadership; it’s capitulation.
Apologists for Obama, and we have been among them on other issues, will defend his decision as the only viable political strategy in what is shaping up to be a very tight presidential race in 2012. Those supporters say he can’t afford to kill the thousands of jobs the $7 billion project would create if it were implemented; nor can he alienate his environmental supporters by siding with big oil.
His decision to postpone any decision until after the 2012 election to study ways to reroute the proposed pipeline around Nebraska’s environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region — which holds valuable wetlands and shallow groundwater that could be endangered by an oil spill — and to bypass an area over the Ogallala Aquifer, satisfies only the people of Nebraska with a temporary reprieve while leaving all others dismayed and disenchanted with the president’s ineffectiveness.
At the very least, the president needs to keep the focus on the ills of the tar sands project from an environmental perspective, and not just about the pipeline’s proposed route through western Nebraska. Too much in this most recent news cycle has been made of Nebraska’s resistance based on its environmentally sensitive areas, rather than kept on the larger issue: the pouring of excessive amounts of hydro-carbons into the atmosphere over the next several decades while the tar sands deposits are fully developed.
The primary pollutant and concern is not about the remote possibility of an oil spill into sensitive areas, but rather the impact on the climate as we further degrade air quality quicken the pace of global warming — a process that is accumulative and that takes decades to reverse, if possible.
It’s enough to make you want a single-six-year term for president.
Angelo S. Lynn
 
 

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