The Pipeline in the Room

elephant in the roomLet's just say upfront that it's a good thing the President will finally be taking action on climate change that doesn't require Congressional action. We won't linger on the fact that the changes he'll be implementing tonight round up (at least in computer modeling) to precisely the 17% cut below 2005 greenhouse gas pollution levels that he promised the world at the little-remembered Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. Apparently, Obama is concerned about his legacy concerning what the New York Times called "the defining environmental and economic challenge of the 21st century" and wants to be able to say he at least did what he said he would.

But how do you give a major address on climate change in 2013 without also at least mentioning the Keystone Pipeline, a project that more than one scientist believes could eventually lead to cancelling out all the reductions being promised in tonight's presidential address, and the pending decision for which has been the primary rallying point for climate change activists in America? From a political point of view, you really can't. But as has been pointed out before, Obama is among the least "political" of modern presidents. Funny how a guy who's done more to raise the profile of community organizing than anyone since Saul Alinsky seems to have never absorbed any of the basic principles of the profession.

Tonight's initiatives include a September deadline for greenhouse pollution limits for new power plants, a June 2014 deadline for regulating greenhouse emissions from existing power plants, a bevy of energy-efficiency measures for buildings and appliances and some token foreign aid to countries suffering the effects of climate change. But one can't help get the feeling that this is all just a prelude to approving the Keystone in three or four months. Let's hope that the President's desire for an worthwhile legacy on this issue gives him second-thoughts.

UPDATED, POST-SPEECH: Well, at least he did mention it. Here's the NYT's on the President's passing reference ot the Keystone Pipeline:

"He briefly addressed the pending decision on whether to allow the construction of a 1,200-mile pipeline from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries in the Midwest and the Gulf Coast. Mr. Obama, who has been under heavy political pressure from opponents and supporters of the $7 billion project, said the pipeline should be built only if it did not have a major effect on the climate.

“Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of climate change,” Mr. Obama said in a statement that cheered pipeline opponents. “The net effect on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project will be allowed to go forward.”

He did not lay out the criteria for measuring the project’s effect on the climate or say how big an impact he was willing to accept. Those decisions are still months away, White House officials said."