Opinion: Morning Examiner

Keystone XL's future depends upon outcome of 2014 election

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Mark Tapscott,Morning Examiner,Barack Obama,John Kerry,2014 Elections,Keystone XL

Will Obama finally approve or reject the Keystone XL pipeline project "in a few months," as Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin recently claimed he vowed?

Don't count on it, at least according to The Hill's Laura Barron-Lopez, writing on the E2 wire. After so much back and forth on the issue since 2009, Obama and his inner circle continue to wrestle with the decision.

And they have a surprising number of options for which a strong political case can be made, according to Barron-Lopez.

Three Keystone choices

Here's how Barron-Lopez lays it out:

"If Obama gives construction of the oil-sands pipeline a green light this spring or summer, he could frame it as an example of his support for North American energy production, a boost for the economy, and a helpful concession to vulnerable Senate Democrats who support the $5.4 billion project.

"But he could go the other way. A flat-out rejection of the pipeline might enthuse the Democratic base for the midterm elections in November, which will hinge on turnout.

"The third option: Punt a decision again. A delay until after the midterms might be safest for the president because it would excite only mild criticism compared to the storm of opprobrium that would follow a firm decision either way."

And if the Senate goes GOP

Since keeping the Senate in Democratic control greatly depends on keeping the far-left base in the environmental movement writing checks and providing troops, an outright rejection of Keystone may be the most likely outcome.

But, as Barron-Lopez notes, more delay might be the better approach if it appears the November elections are going to be a GOP victory.

"Delay could also make Keystone a bargaining chip for the president in either the lame-duck session of Congress or next year, when he could face a Republican House and Senate," Barron-Lopez said.

It's anybody's guess

Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to make a recommendation to Obama this spring. Kerry's department has already decided there is no significant danger to the environment from the pipeline.

One thing is certain: If Obama rejects Keystone or delays the decision until after the election, a Republican-controlled Senate will make the project one of its first priorities in 2015.

But if Democrats somehow manage to maintain control of the Senate, Keystone will be dead come New Year's Day 2015.

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