Editorial: Pipeline leadership failure

Apr. 21, 2014 @ 11:55 PM

January 2017 is the next presidential inauguration. We’re left to reason it’ll be at least that long before the Keystone XL pipeline is under construction or finally dead.

Meanwhile, do enjoy the rhetorical political play it gets each election cycle. That could linger well beyond any decision on its construction, which was delayed again Friday.

The Keystone XL is a project of TransCanada Corp. If built, the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline would transport more than 800,000 barrels a day of tar sands oil, a dirty fossil fuel, from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries.

This has become more than the classic battle between climate change activists and energy advocates. It crosses party lines and pins President Barack Obama on his global warming promise.

“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” he said at the 2013 State of the Union.

His built-in escape, however, is convenient.

Americans haven’t bought in when it comes to renewable energy. We’ve made progress, but we’re still hesitant on solar, wind and biomass to power our vehicles, homes and factories. This while the country still strives for North American energy independence.

Canada, meanwhile, will go to market somewhere, either to China through West Coast ports or other nations via East Coast ports. The oil won’t stay in the ground.

We’re also confident the president and his secretary of state, John Kerry, won’t back off trying to be global leaders against climate change.

Then there are the 11 Democratic senators who penned a letter to the president, before Friday’s announcement, firmly attaching themselves to the project. They encouraged him to approve the Keystone XL before May 31.

Among them was Sen. Kay Hagan from Greensboro, seen often in campaign ads these days, and Sen. Mary Landrieu, the Energy and National Resources chairwoman from the energy hub of Louisiana who also faces a political fight this year.

A House bill waits that takes the decision away from Obama. But it’s been waiting a year, four less than the beleaguered Keystone project itself.

While not courageous, kicking the can has been chosen more prudent than breaking a promise. But this measure of unity — everyone upset with a lack of decision — demonstrates nothing more than a failure in leadership.