Obama will delay Keystone decision until after election, some predict

Given the political danger in making a decision — any decision — about the Keystone XL pipeline going into an election year, some observers think President Obama is likely to delay a final decision on the project until after the 2012 election.

Politico reports:

The problem: Obama runs the risk of disappointing either labor unions or environmental groups that went to bat for him in 2008, and he can’t really afford to have any of his previous supporters sit on the sidelines next year.

“It’s a hell of a dilemma,” said one environmentalist who believes Obama will delay a decision for a while. “Clearly it would be in his benefit not to have this as a hot potato in his reelect.”

John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil Co. and now head of the Texas-based Citizens for Affordable Energy, predicts that Obama will wait until after the election to make a call on the pipeline that would run from Alberta oil sands to Texas refineries.

“It is much easier to avoid a decision than to make a decision,” Hofmeister said. “And as long as he has not made a decision, he can hold out the hope that he will one day make a decision in their favor.”

“He wins both ways by deferring the decision, and he ultimately wins the loyalty and support of the American people by deciding in favor of the project,” added Hofmeister, who supports the pipeline and believes Obama will eventually approve it. “It’s just a common-sense decision for him to say, ‘Why do I have to decide now?’”

The article also cites environmental leaders saying they’d be fine with that. But would this really be to the president’s benefit? Delaying the decision would also keep the issue alive during an election year, which would undoubtedly mean the massive protests against the pipeline organized by environmentalists over the last few months would likely continue and perhaps even get larger.

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Ed Brayton

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