To hear the White House tell it, Barack Obama might be the most pipeline-friendly president ever to occupy the Oval Office.
In advance of Obama's March 22 visit to Cushing, Okla, the White House released a fact sheet detailing the president's support for oil pipeline projects. "The need for pipeline infrastructure is urgent, because rising American oil production is outpacing the capacity of pipelines to deliver oil to refineries," the White House wrote. "It is critical that we make pipeline infrastructure a top priority."
When the president appeared in Cushing, White House image-makers positioned him in front of huge stockpiles of pipe -- tons and tons of pipe. Message: Obama loves pipelines. "Under my administration," the president said, "we've added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some."
But Obama wasn't in Cushing because he has approved so much new pipeline. He was there because he is facing bipartisan opposition, in Congress and across the country, for blocking the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would bring about 700,000 barrels of oil from Canada to refineries in Texas every day, creating thousands of new jobs in the process. The opposition appears to be growing, and there's good reason to believe Obama will be forced to reverse himself in the next few months.
A new Gallup poll shows that 57 percent of Americans say the government should approve building Keystone. That number includes 81 percent of Republicans, 51 percent of independents and 44 percent (a plurality) of Democrats. The only good news for the White House is that most Americans aren't following the issue very closely, at least not yet.
In Cushing, the president announced he will expedite approval of the relatively short southern portion of the Keystone project, known as the Cushing pipeline, which will take oil that is already in Oklahoma down to the Texas refineries. "I'm directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles and make this project a priority," Obama said.
But Republicans quickly pointed out that a) presidential approval wasn't necessary for that portion of the pipeline, since it is all domestic, and b) it was Obama's agencies that were responsible for the red tape and bureaucratic hurdles in the first place. "He's out in Oklahoma trying to take credit for a part of the pipeline that doesn't even require his approval," said House Speaker John Boehner.