Shhhh….Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet…

March 17, 2013

National Review:

Deciding whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is surely one of the toughest challenges of Barack Obama’s presidency. He hasn’t made up his mind yet, of course. Or has he?

Bloomberg reports that the Obama administration “is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects.” Up to now, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), federally approved projects had to consider potential impacts like dangerous spills or air pollution, but not global warming. Directing all federal agencies to take climate change into account under NEPA will transform environmental policy in this country, putting a huge new drag on the economy in the process.

But let’s concentrate on Keystone. The Bloomberg report makes it clear that Obama’s order opens the way for further litigation and substantial delays on Keystone, whether the federal government officially blocks construction or not. That’s because NEPA allows citizens and environmental groups to file claims against projects even after they win government approval.

So the Obama administration could green-light the pipeline, file a report that stops short of calling Keystone a major global-warming hazard, and still find the project delayed for years by environmental groups bringing court challenges under the new NEPA guidelines.

In this scenario, headlines loudly proclaiming Obama’s approval of Keystone would shield him from Republican attacks. Simultaneously, the president could mollify the left by claiming credit for guidelines that effectively allowed his allies to stop the pipeline. And that would be right. Obama can publicly “approve” Keystone, while simultaneously handing the left the tool they need to put the project on semi-permanent hold. Environmentalists would take the political heat, while Obama would get off scot-free. Pretty clever.

32 Responses to “Shhhh….Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet…”

  1. Nice one! Makes playing chess look like a walk in the park! 😉

  2. rayduray Says:

    Say you are a young and ambitious President. Say you are going to have a 20 year career after leaving the Oval Office. Say you’ve come to enjoy a rather grand lifestyle and enjoy the perquisites of power.

    Are you then going to deny Trans Canada’s Keystone XL pipeline and possibly sit on the board of a non-profit like the Nature Conservancy for free after leaving the White House?

    Or ar you going to approve the pipeline and get multiple offers to sit on the Board of Directors of most of the leading corporations on the planet?

    This is a dilemma? I’d say it’s more like a slam dunk.

  3. witsendnj Says:

    This article is silly for two reasons.

    One, the purported reason Keystone was targeted in the first place was to draw a line in the sand so that OBAMA will take a stand. If he approves it but in such as way that activists can dely it, where has he met the challenge set as a make or break issue by 350 et al? He would have simply eluded it and thrown it back at the environmentalists to fight it in courts and in the streets and in the media. If they claim that as some sort of victory they are worse pussies than I thought.

    Two, I fess up to once thinking that Obama was playing chess with a lot of promises he had made, and was only waiting for the right opportunity to at least TRY to fulfill them.

    That has turned out to be a total f**king joke. Universal health care? Hold war criminals accountable? Transparency? Regulate the banks? Civil liberties…pulease!! End the wars overseas??? Come on.

    I don’t know if he is a turncoat or just has no control, but it doesn’t really matter. The outcome is the same. Everything – LITERALLY everything – has gotten worse since Bush, not better.

    • Wes Says:

      I do agree with your disappointments, but in fairness you need to separate out what he can do without Congress and what he can’t. Of course, when you look at the things you mention, there’s only one – universal health care – that needs Congress. And the bad part about bringing troops home is that thanks to Congress there’s no jobs. The others, I agree, Obama has to own. Especially the banks.
      Did I mention that his leadership on climate sucks?

      • witsendnj Says:

        Well, I purposely said: the right opportunity to at least TRY to fulfill them.

        I know the problems he had/has with Congress. But that’s no excuse to continually allow them to move the bar to the right. The entire point of being POTUS is to LEAD.

        He never even tried to make a case for universal health care, which he could have easily done. It’s not that hard to understand that a system that profits big Pharma and insurance companies isn’t as good as a system that puts people first.

        You could say I’m disappointed…or you could say, I’m disgusted and furious.

        • rayduray Says:

          Re: ” The entire point of being POTUS is to LEAD.”

          Recent history says that this is way too romantic a vision, Gail.

          Let’s look at what even attempting to be President means if you are a modern Democrat.

          1) Bill Clinton. Current net worth $150 Million. Made his fortune after selling his Rolodex to hustlers like Ron Burkel of Yucaipa Corp.

          2) Al Gore: Current net worth over $200 Million. Made his fortune selling his Rolodex to John Doerr at Kleiner, Perkins and his TV station to the Emir of Qatar.

          3) John Kerry. Current net worth $100 Million. While Kerry was nearly bankrupt in the mid-1990s a fortuitous marriage to a Zimbabwean social climber got Kerry in “the game” which after he graciously fell on his sword in 2004 offered him insider tips on defense industry stocks which netted outsized 300% and 500% windfalls getting ahead of the crowd.

          The idea about becoming a POTUS, if you are Democrat is to become obscenely rich. Just leave leading to your samba partner.

          • witsendnj Says:

            Could you elaborate a little on “Zimbabwean social climber”? I’m not sure what that means…

          • rayduray Says:

            Re: “Could you elaborate a little on “Zimbabwean social climber”? I’m not sure what that means…”

            Sure. John Kerry is married Teresa Heinz-Kerry. I’m afraid I made a bit of a mix-up. I confused Teresa’s Mozambican heritage with the Rhodesian background of most whites who grew up in South East Africa.

            The social climber bit is planetary, eh? 🙂


          • witsendnj Says:

            Oh gosh I’m glad you cleared that up rayduray. For a second I thought I detected some sort of racist/sexist snark there. I’m so glad I was wrong.

          • rayduray Says:

            Re: ” For a second I thought I detected some sort of racist/sexist snark there.”

            Ah, Gail. Glad to have cleared up any confusion that my concern was purely one with the nature of greed run amok and out of control at the upper echelons of the Democratic Party.

            I compare our Three Musketeers to Jose Mujica and find myself longing for a little Latin getaway from the Empire and its master class:


      • rayduray Says:

        Wes & Gail,

        My ideal President would be William Blum. Here’s what he’s written in his latest edition of the Anti-Empire Report:


        In January, 2006 bin Laden, in an audio tape, declared: “If Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book ‘Rogue State’ [by William Blum], which states in its introduction … ” He then went on to quote the opening of a paragraph I wrote (which appears actually in the Foreword of the British edition only, that was later translated to Arabic), which in full reads:

        “If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize – very publicly and very sincerely – to all the widows and the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America’s global interventions – including the awful bombings – have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but – oddly enough – a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings and invasions. There would be more than enough money. Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.

        “That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.”

        Ray again. Now this obviously is part of my anarchist plot to end politics and government and bring about a worker owned paradise on earth. Voiding the Pope’s request that we wait for heaven. 🙂

    • daveburton Says:

      Re: “the purported reason Keystone was targeted in the first place was to draw a line in the sand so that OBAMA will take a stand.”

      Really? This is news to me. Purported by whom?

      • witsendnj Says:

        By the big environmental groups that proposed focussing on Keystone (and divestment) – 350, Sierra, NWF and others. When criticized for having a narrow agenda, their response has been that even though either are inadequate to address climate change, they are valuable as “movement building” – and the Keystone issue puts the onus on Obama since he has the ability to affect the outcome personally without relying on Congress.

        I’ve been to every demonstration so far, and the emphasis has been on pressuring Obama to lead on climate via the Keystone decision. It’s been written up in innumerable places by many, many activist group employees and leaders.

        Personally, although I support direct action on any environmental issue, I think the emphasis on tar sands is a gigantic cop-out as is the CO2 obsession on climate change generally. The big green groups should be targeting broader, more systemic problems. Climate is a symptom of overpopulation and over-consumption, and an exploitative global economy that uses militarism to enforce illegal extraction from poor countries.

        Blaming fossil fuel companies and for-profit capitalism (and I MOST CERTAINLY DO!) exclusively is a distraction from the fact that everyone is buying into unsustainable growth because everyone wants a profligate western lifestyle, and those that have it already don’t want to give it up. So big corporate/foundation funded professional green groups don’t want to talk about that, because they’ll lose support (and salaries) the minute they make clear that in order to save civilization in any form from climate catastrophe, massive drastic sacrifices will be necessary – like personal vehicles, flying, swimming pools, disposable electronic toys, large (over one child) families and cheap imported junk.

        The local groups fighting fracking and MTR because their own backyards are brind poisoned (not to mention Occupy’s emphasis on injustice) are dragging the big, DC-centered cocktail party crowd into civil disobedience. It wasn’t GANGRENE’s idea.

    • daveburton Says:

      “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free!” – P.J. O’Rourke

      • witsendnj Says:

        Why would I watch a 40 minute commercial? I would only sit through a pitch that long if I was getting a free weekend at the timeshare.

        Consensus seems to be whatever the potential it cannot be ready in the timeframe required to make a dent in fossil fuel emissions.

      • daryan12 Says:

        While indeed there are some serious scientists working on LFTR research, unfortunately the bulk of those on the internet tend to be wild eyed libertarians who know next to nothing about nuclear energy and have a tendency to make rather extravagant claims.

        The suggestion that LFTR’s were “discriminated” against due to an inability to make Pu is debunked by the fact that all of the US civilian LWR’s ran on a once thro-cycle with no attempt made to extract Plutonium for bombs (that came from purpose built breeder reactors…indeed the original design goal of the Molten Salt reactor was to perform just this purpose!).

        Kevin Meterson’s blog has a few links to a number of rebuttals to the “Thorium trolls”, including one from the MIT and the NNL (UK national nuclear labs…you know, guys who work with “nuke stuff”….probably a better source of opinion than some you-tube video!)

        Again, there are some serious scientists working on this technology (I see the odd paper on it pop up from time to time), but their forecasts are considerably more muted & cautious with a much longer timetable….and a very large research bill!

        • daveburton Says:

          Thanks for that. How does the bill compare to the bill for fusion research?

          • daryan12 Says:

            Firstly, you can use Thorium fuel in a mixed mode with existing Gas cooled reactor technology &/or CANDU’s. This was actually successfully demonstrated a decade or two ago, so R&D costs for this form of Thorium cycle would be limited (LFTR fans have a habit of neglecting to point this pesky little fact out! after all if we have another tech than can do the job, why waste money on their pet project!)

            However, numerous studies by bodies such as MIT and the NNL (see their position paper on Thorium & SMR’s below) suggest that the Thorium cycle (regardless of reactor choice) simply isn’t economically viable (again LFTR fans often leave out this little fact too!).

            Now, in ref to you’re comment, as a skeptic of nuclear energy, I’d question whether Fusion power is in fact going to work out as being the cheap energy source those behind it promise. I cover this, Gas-cooled reactor’s and LFTR’s in my blog here (its a rather lengthy set of posts!):

            Some colleagues who are pro-nuclear have suggested to me that they see Thorium (with Gas cooled reactors more than likely) as a sort of “insurance” policy in case Fusion fails to arrive on schedule, but that’s about it!

  4. jimbills Says:

    The article above basically states that it’s ‘clever’ to play politics with AGW. As if we haven’t been doing exactly that for 30+ years. As if a few environmentalists can stop a pipeline theoretically approved by the President and pushed by some of the most powerful industries in the world. As if the courts themselves are honest arbiters regarding big money.

    What the above article really is is a rationalization of the likelihood that Obama WILL approve Keystone. All the signs are pointing that way. So, the Dem-leaning journalists want to find a way to excuse that possibility and continue believing in Obama.

    And, in the end in the above scenario, the Keystone is approved, it gets a stamp of approval from the top political leader on Earth, it eventually gets built (despite any legal actions), the world continues on the same path it’s been on (only more so), and the climate continues to warm (only more so). Sounds pretty ‘clever’ to me.

    • jimbills Says:

      False assumption on my part: the author of this article, Stanley Kurtz of the National Review, is a conservative commentator, not a Democrat. My bad. Those details blew past me on the first read – ouch.

      The Wikipedia entry of the author is worth a look:

      But I do think Obama is likely to approve the pipeline, and I do think we’ll see a lot of rationalization by Democrats of that decision. And I stick to the notion that the scenario in the above article is the opposite of ‘clever’.

  5. Read the National Review article’s reader comments. Nothing Obama does would shield him from Republican attacks. Now, scroll up. Approving the pipeline would not mollify “the left”. “Scot-free”, he would not be.

    • daveburton Says:

      You’ve got to admire the WP’s propaganda wizards. Look at the story’s big lead photo, entitled, “Silhouetted against the sky at dusk, emissions spew from the smokestacks at Westar Energy’s Jeffrey Energy Center coal-fired power plant near St. Mary’s, Kan.”

      And what do you suppose those black, deadly-looking plumes of “emissions” are?

      Condensing steam, that’s what.

      Plumes of condensing water vapor normally look white, and a lot less scary, but by artfully choosing a vantage point to the east of the plant, and a time just after sunset, AP photographer Charlie Riedel managed to make the white plumes look black.

      That power plant has state-of-the-art scrubbers which remove 95% of the SO2 and nearly all of the particulate matter, and which cost over $400 million. Almost nothing is left except steam. Here’s what those same stacks really look like, under normal conditions:

      “If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are most likely misinformed.” – Mark Twain

      • joffan7 Says:

        Well, no, you forgot something else that’s not going to photograph well but is still coming out of the stacks in great quantity: carbon dioxide. Rather more of it than water, too. And these are indeed emissions – the products of combustion.

        And although other emissions are thankfully reduced compared to simply burning a heap of coal on the ground, they are still there to some degree.

        • witsendnj Says:

          To some degree!

          Burning coal is also a leading cause of smog, acid rain, and toxic air pollution. Some emissions can be significantly reduced with readily available pollution controls, but most U.S. coal plants have not installed these technologies.

          Sulfur dioxide (SO2): Coal plants are the United States’ leading source of SO2 pollution, which takes a major toll on public health, including by contributing to the formation of small acidic particulates that can penetrate into human lungs and be absorbed by the bloodstream. SO2 also causes acid rain, which damages crops, forests, and soils, and acidifies lakes and streams. A typical uncontrolled coal plant emits 14,100 tons of SO2 per year. A typical coal plant with emissions controls, including flue gas desulfurization (smokestack scrubbers), emits 7,000 tons of SO2 per year.

          Nitrogen oxides (NOx): NOx pollution causes ground level ozone, or smog, which can burn lung tissue, exacerbate asthma, and make people more susceptible to chronic respiratory diseases. A typical uncontrolled coal plant emits 10,300 tons of NOx per year. A typical coal plant with emissions controls, including selective catalytic reduction technology, emits 3,300 tons of NOx per year.

          Particulate matter: Particulate matter (also referred to as soot or fly ash) can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility. A typical uncontrolled plan emits 500 tons of small airborne particles each year. Baghouses installed inside coal plant smokestacks can capture as much as 99 percent of the particulates.

          Mercury: Coal plants are responsible for more than half of the U.S. human-caused emissions of mercury, a toxic heavy metal that causes brain damage and heart problems. Just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat. A typical uncontrolled coal plants emits approximately 170 pounds of mercury each year. Activated carbon injection technology can reduce mercury emissions by up to 90 percent when combined with baghouses. ACI technology is currently found on just 8 percent of the U.S. coal fleet.
          Other harmful pollutants emitted annually from a typical, uncontrolled coal plant include approximately:

          114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium. Baghouses can reduce heavy metal emissions by up to 90 percent3.

          720 tons of carbon monoxide, which causes headaches and places additional stress on people with heart disease.

          220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone.

          225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion.

          • daveburton Says:

            That particular power plant has state-of-the-art scrubbers, which cost nearly half a $billion, and which remove 95% of the SO2, and essentially all of the particulate matter. But the Washington Post used a photo taken with tricky, just-after-sunset back-lighting to make clouds of condensing water vapor look like thick black plumes of soot. It was grossly dishonest. They mislead their readers, and smeared the reputations of a private power company and the men and women who run it.

            I’d have written to their Ombudsman, but they just terminated that position.

            So I wrote to their “Reader Representative.” That was almost a week ago. No reply so far.

            A follow-up email likewise resulted in no reply.

            I also wrote to Juliet Eilperin, twice. No response from her, either.

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