Obama Announces Historic Decision to Reject Keystone XL Pipeline


On Friday, President Obama announced his administration’s decision to reject the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, after seven years of intense deliberation over the pipeline’s potential environmental risks. The announcement is widely viewed as a major victory for environmentalists and is sure to further burnish the president’s legacy in combating climate change.

Proponents of the controversial project, which would have carried more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada daily, say the pipeline’s construction would be an essential jobs creator and boost the economy. Obama’s remarks in full below, courtesy of the Washington Post:

OBAMA: Good morning, everybody.

Several years ago, the State Department began a review process for the proposed pipeline that would carry Canadian crude oil through our heartland to ports in the Gulf of Mexico and out into the world market.

This morning, Senator Kerry informed me that after extensive public outreach and consultation with other cabinet agencies, the State Department has decided that a Keystone XL Pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States. I agree with that decision.

This morning, I also had the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada. And while he expressed his disappointment, given Canada’s position on this issue, we both agreed that are close friendship on a whole range of issues, including energy and climate change, should provide the basis for even closer coordination between our countries going forward.

And in the coming weeks, senior members of my team will be engaging with theirs in order to help deepen that cooperation.

Now for years, the Keystone Pipeline has occupied what I, frankly, consider and overinflated role in our political discourse. It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter.

And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.

To illustrate this, let me briefly comment on some of the reasons why the State Department rejected this pipeline.

First, the pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy. So if Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it. If they want to do it, what we should be doing is passed bipartisan infrastructure plan that in the short term to create more than 30 times jobs per you than the pipeline would and in the long run, would benefit our economy and our workers for decades to come.

Our business has created 262,000 new jobs last month. They created 13.5 million new jobs over the past 68 straight months, the longest streak on record. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent. This Congress should pass a serious infrastructure plan and keep those jobs coming. That would make a difference. The pipeline would not have made a serious impact on those numbers and on the American people’s prospects for the future.

Second, the pipeline would not lower gas prices for American consumers. In fact, gas prices have already been falling steadily. The national average gas price is down to about $0.77 over a year ago. It is down a dollar over two years ago. It is down $1.27 over three years ago.

Today in 41 states, drivers can find at least one gas station selling gas for less than two dollars a gallon. So while our politics have been consumed by debate over whether or not this pipeline would create jobs and lower gas prices, we have gone ahead and created jobs and lowered gas prices.

Third, shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security. What has increased America’s energy security is our strategy over the past several years to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels from unstable parts of the world. Three years ago, I set a goal to cut our oil imports in half by 2020. Between producing more oil here and home and using less oil throughout our economy, we met that goal last year. Five years early. In fact, for the first time in two decades, the United States of America now produces more oil than we buy from other countries.

Now the truth is the United States will continue to rely on oil and gas as we transition, as we must transition, to a clean energy economy. That transition will take some time. But it is also going more quickly than many anticipated. Think about it. Since I took office, we have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas by 2025. Tripled the power we generate from the wind, multiplied the power we generate from the sun 20 times over. Our biggest and most successful businesses are going all in on clean energy. And thanks in part to the investments we have made, there are already parts of America were clean power from the wind or the sun is finally cheaper than dirtier conventional power. The point is, the old rule said we couldn’t promote economic growth and protect our environment at the same time. The old rule said we couldn’t transition to clean energy without squeezing businesses and consumers.

But this is America and we have come up with new ways and new technologies to break down the old rules so today, homegrown energy is booming and energy prices are falling. And over the past decade, even as our economy has continued to grow, America has cut our total carbon pollution more than any other country on earth. Today, the United States of America is leading on climate change with our investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.

America is leading on climate change with new rules on power plants that will protect our air so that our kids can breathe. America is leading on climate change by working with other big emitters like China to encourage and announce new commitments to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. In part, because of that American leadership, more than 150 nations representing nearly 90 percent of global emissions, have put forward plans to cut global pollution.

OBAMA: America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change. Frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership and that is the biggest risk that we face. Not acting.

Today, we’re continuing to lead by example, because ultimately, if we’re gonna prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re gonna have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.

As long as I’m president of the United States, America’s gonna hold ourselves to the same high standards to which we hold the rest of the world.

And three weeks from now, I look forward to joining my fellow world leaders in Paris, where we’ve got to come together around an ambitious framework to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.

If we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change before it’s too late, the time to act is — is now. Not later, not someday. Right here, right now.

And I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish together. I’m optimistic because our own country proves every day, one step at a time, that not only do we have the power to combat this threat, we can do it while creating new jobs, while growing our economy, while saving money, while helping consumers, and most of all, leaving our kids a cleaner, safer planet at the same time.

That’s what our own ingenuity and actions can do. That’s what we can accomplish. And America’s prepared to show the rest of the world the way forward.

Thank you very much.

What does this decision mean in the long run? Climate Desk‘s Tim McDonnell explains: