This was a crass political decision if there ever was one. The policy arguments for blocking the pipeline, first proposed in September 2008, are pathetically weak.
Environmentalists claim that Canadian oil sands production will release too much carbon dioxide. But if we block the pipeline, Canada will keep producing the oil and sell it to China.
Concern is also expressed that the pipeline will somehow pollute the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska. But pipelines are the safest way to transport oil, and we've been building them for decades without polluting aquifers.
What is undisputed is that the KeystoneXL pipeline would create a lot of jobs in the United States -- 20,000 directly and more indirectly, the Canadian firm says -- and will provide us with about 7 percent of our imported oil.
That would be a big plus for energy independence. It would mean that we'd get more oil from a friendly neighbor and depend less on the Middle East and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.
On this one, Obama even stiffed his usual allies, labor unions that are eager for pipeline jobs, and sided with the environmentalists who staged Occupy-type demonstrations outside the White House earlier this month.
To make points with them, he was quite willing to snub Canada, with whom we have shared the longest unfortified border in the world for more than a century.
A president who showed respect and friendship for the governments and peoples of other nations would not have connived in the smuggling of guns into Mexico and would not have blocked the import of oil from Canada.
But, on these and other foreign policy issues, we don't have such a president right now. We have a presidential candidate with a negative job rating desperate for re-election.