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Policy: Environment & Energy

Obama: Keystone pipeline can be approved if study shows no net greenhouse gas increase

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In a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University, President Obama will announce that the controversial, long-in-the-works the Keystone XL oil pipeline project can be approved if further study by the State Department shows it will not result in a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. A study of the project by the State Department last March indicated that it would not lead to a net increase in emissions.

The president is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m.

According to a Huffington Post story on the planned speech, a White House source said:

“As the executive order on Keystone contemplates, the environmental impacts will be important criteria used in the determination of whether the Keystone pipeline application will ultimately be approved at the completion of the State Department decision process,” said the senior administration official. “In today’s speech, the president will make clear that the State Department should approve the pipeline only if it will not lead to a net increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions.”

The mention of “net increase” is key. In a March study, the State Department found that there would not be a net increase in those emissions. As ABC News reported at the time:

Government analysts found that Keystone XL would each year produce the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of 620,000 passenger cars operating for a year. But they concluded that whether or not the pipeline is approved, those emissions would still likely occur because of fuels produced and obtained from other sources.

The executive summary of the March study can be found here. The report also found the project would create 42,100 jobs, although most of them would be temporary. The report was preliminary. The State Department is expected to do further study on the issue.

It is not clear whether Obama will base the decision on just whether the project itself increases emissions or whether he will take broader view of whether emissions will increase regardless of what the approves. The White House appears to be trying to finesse the issue by emphasizing a cautious approach but still appears to be edging towards approval of the project. It is nevertheless under tremendous pressure from the environmentalist left to reject the pipeline.

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Sean Higgins

Senior Writer
The Washington Examiner