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Did Obama’s Keystone XL Decision Prevent A Potential Environmental Disaster?

There are myriad methods of defining intelligence depending on circumstance and knowledge, but it is safe to say that at the most basic level, learning from other’s prior errant actions and avoiding repeating them is at least smart. It is not often that in a short time span, an entire country witnesses a leader avoid repeating their predecessor’s mistakes, but Americans saw firsthand how President Obama identified Republican’s errors and possibly prevented a devastating environmental disaster.

The Keystone XL pipeline that Republicans forced the president to decide on within a two month timetable demonstrates their willingness to give a foreign oil company carte blanche to use American territory to send crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast without regard for the environment. It was nearly two years ago that another foreign-owned oil company caused the worst environmental disaster in American history because regulations governing safety procedures were left up to the oil industry to enforce. The similarities between the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill and a potentially devastating oil spill in America’s heartland are striking except for one fact; President Barack Obama.

The President’s denial of a permit to give the foreign oil company, TransCanada, the right to build a 36-inch, approximately 1,661-mile-long crude oil pipeline is already being criticized by Republicans. They contend the pipeline will employ tens-of-thousands of workers and reduce oil dependency here in the U.S., but as is usually the case with anything Republicans claim; they lie. Estimates are anywhere from hundreds to 6,000 jobs, but the true figure is probably closer to 2,000 jobs to build the pipeline. Republicans also conveniently omit that TransCanada, a foreign company, will certainly use their own construction specialists to build the pipeline and that they will not be at the local unemployment office recruiting Americans except for minimum wage manual labor jobs.

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Speaker of the House John Boehner’s spokesman assailed the President’s decision and claimed it killed “tens-of-thousands of jobs,” but there is a good reason Boehner is so rabid to provide a foreign oil company with revenue. According to Boehner’s financial disclosure forms from December 2010, he invested $10,000 to $50,000 each in seven firms that had a stake in Canada’s oil sands. Boehner’s push to grant TransCanada a permit is certainly a conflict of interest that the House Oversight Committee should investigate, but the Republican chairman and convicted felon, Darrel Issa, is hardly going to investigate his boss. However, don’t expect the corporate media to expose Boehner’s conflict of interest anytime soon.

Willard Romney and the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls assailed Obama’s decision as irresponsible and caving to environmentalists instead of creating jobs. However, every one of the Republicans oppose President Obama’s job creation plans; their interest in creating jobs is only if they enrich a foreign oil company.  Republicans also fail to admit that the oil belongs to Canada and that the refined oil is for export on the foreign market; not America. In fact, the main beneficiary of the tar-sands crude oil is Valero and they already have an export strategy as part of the Free Trade Zone that allows them to avoid paying U.S. taxes on their profits.

Disregarding the facts of Republicans profiting from giving a foreign oil company permission to use America as an overland route for their oil and avoiding paying taxes, or that jobs are not an issue, leaves the potential for environmental disaster in a major crop-producing region of the country as the biggest threat to America’s security. It is crucial to remember that BP representatives overruled safety concerns about the oil well and the result was eleven men killed and 4.9 million barrels of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. When President Obama sought to hold BP responsible for the biggest petroleum industry disaster in history, Republicans apologized to foreign-owned BP.

President Obama’s decision to deny TransCanada permission to ship their oil to Texas refineries for export on the foreign market was the only decision he could make considering the circumstances and prior mistakes by Republicans anxious to give another foreign oil company tax-free profits. The State Department and Environmental Protection agency had to conduct security and environmental impact studies before the pipeline got the go-ahead, but Republicans sought to circumvent the law and their oil industry lobbies spent millions to push the pipeline’s quick permission. Apparently, the Republicans forgot that just under two years ago, BP caused a record disaster by pushing ahead regardless of safety concerns. However, President Obama did not forget and he was gracious in allowing TransCanada to submit another proposal that avoids a crucial food-producing region, and despite their threat to sell their oil to China, they are already reassessing different routes for their pipeline. However, Canada’s oil was always meant for foreign export so their threat was to frighten ignorant Americans; not President Obama.

Americans should be grateful that President Obama did not make the same errors as Bush-Republicans  by allowing the oil industry to avoid federal laws and safety regulations just to boost their profits. The President is intelligent, but his wisdom is most evident in protecting a crucial agricultural region and precious groundwater. The Republicans will make wild claims based on lies and misinformation, but they are protecting oil industry profits and in Speaker Boehner’s case, his Canadian oil investments. Most of all, the President is following federal law and that may be what irks Republicans most. If Americans have learned anything from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it is that foreign oil companies will subvert the rules and regulations to boost their already obscene profits with the help of profit-motivated Republicans. President Obama may have prevented a repeat of the BP oil disaster, except that this time instead of polluting the Gulf Coast, TransCanada would decimate precious groundwater and crucial agricultural resources in America’s heartland.

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