(Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
The Keystone XL pipeline will not be built unless it can be shown that it will not lead to a net increase in carbon emissions, President Barack Obama declared in a major Tuesday speech on climate change at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. While appearing to appease environmentalists, the announcement could mean that the project will move forward.
"Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our national interest," he said. "And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward."
If completed, the Keystone pipeline will carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the Gulf Coast. Environmental activists have urged Obama to kill the project, arguing that it will exacerbate climate change and could damage environmentally sensitive areas. Supporters of the pipeline have argued it will boost the economy by providing jobs for the construction of the pipeline and by lowering the costs of energy once the pipeline is complete.
While Obama's announcement came in an ostensibly pro-environmentalist speech, supporters of the pipeline are suggesting that Obama's caveat means the project will eventually move forward. They believe the evidence shows that the pipeline will not lead to a net increase in greenhouse gases. Indeed, the State Department has already released a draft study showing that the pipeline would not significantly add to greenhouse gas emissions.
"The standard the president set today should lead to speedy approval of the Keystone pipeline," Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), told The Hill. "Based on the lengthy review by the State Department, construction of the pipeline would not have a significant environmental impact. It's time to sign off on Keystone and put Americans to work."
Obama also announced plans to increase regulations on coal power plants and subsidize wind and solar power. The Environmental Protection Agency will finalize new rules for coal plants designed to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide the plant release into the air. Obama has set new deadlines for when these new rules should be in place.
America will "set a bold example" for the rest of the world on climate change, Obama added, and he will encourage developing nations to "join a global low-carbon economy" by helping them utilize non-carbon based fuel sources.