Obama's Keystone Decision Alienates Him From the Majority of Americans
Barack Obama's Wednesday decision to appease his liberal base and reject the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline may hurt his chances with independents and some Democrats who favor jobs and energy independence over the environment.
The president's Wednesday decision to reject a Republican plan for a U.S. partnership with energy company Transcanada energized environmentalists who assert the project would have produced three times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude oil.
However, the decision will likely hinder his ability to connect with Americans who crossed party lines to support the pipeline.
AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades President Mark H. Ayers criticized the president's jobs bill slogan following the announcement.
"Today, the words 'We Can't Wait' truly rings hollow for skilled craft construction professionals across this nation," Ayers said in a Wednesday statement to reporters.
He continued, "Those are the words that have been uttered by President Obama time and time again as he states he will work around an obstructionist U.S. Congress to take action to address our nation's continuing unemployment crisis. One clear opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to unemployed Americans was the approval of the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline."
While the AFL-CIO has opposed union-busting "Right to Work" laws and sided with the 99 percent movement, Ayers spoke out in support of the Keystone project and the 20,000v jobs Transcanada has promised U.S. workers.
"For America's skilled craft construction professionals, any discussion of the Keystone XL project begins and ends with one word: jobs," he said in a 2011 statement.
Ayers said Obama's Keystone decision is a disappointment and accused him of placing "a higher priority on politics rather than our nation's number one challenge: jobs."
Ayers is not alone. According to a December Rassmussen Reports survey, 53 percent of Americans either strongly favored or somewhat favored the pipeline.
Groups such as Tar Sands Action have refuted Transcanada's claims that the project will produce 20,000 jobs, saying the real number is close to only 6,000 jobs. However, American support for the pipeline may also stem from their support of energy independence.
Another 2011 Rassmussen poll showed that 75 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. is not doing enough to develop its own traditional gas and oil resources.
The support for traditional energy development is shared almost equally among Republicans, Democrats and Independents, 2009 Gallup polls show.
Although Republicans favor government incentives for cultivating energy from traditional sources slightly more than other political groups (42 percent), the poll shows there is also broad support among Democrats (38 percent) and independents (39 percent).
While there is high, bipartisan support for developing traditional energy sources, the same poll also shows that there is also high U.S. interest in investing in alternative energy sources such as solar- and wind-generated energy.
According to the poll, 77 percent of all respondents favored increased investments in alternative energy.
Obama is touting his record on developing alternative fuels in a new television ad airing in Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
In the ad, he takes credit for a Brookings Institution's 2011 assessment stating the clean energy economy employs some 2.7 million U.S. workers and is expanding rapidly. He also touts a 2010 Energy Information Administration report that "U.S. dependence on imported oil fell below the 50 percent mark last year for the first time since 1997."
However, Oppenheimer & Co. energy analyst Fadel Gheit told Politico Thursday that less foreign oil dependence was driven by the markets and "American ingenuity," not the Obama administration's legislation. Gheit also said that the spending fueled by the markets and U.S. inventiveness spurred clean energy jobs.
Still Obama's actions are supported by anti-Keystone protestors.
Bill McKibben, 350.org founder and Keystone XL protest leader, praised the president saying yesterday, "Assuming that what we're hearing is true, this isn't just the right call, it's the brave call."
However, polls suggest environmentalists like McKibben represent a dwindling minority of Americans.
A 2011 Gallup survey shows 50 percent of Americans prioritize development of U.S. energy over the environment while 41 percent prioritize environment. That is huge shift from 2007, when 58 percent of Americans favored the environment at the risk of limiting U.S. energy production and a mere 34 percent favored energy development.