President Obama emphatically rejected a proposal that would have brought oil from Canada and created jobs in the United States.
In rejecting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico last week, President Obama sent two unmistakable messages — one personal and the other political.
Given the strong public support for the pipeline and the many thousands of well-paying jobs it would have produced in a job-starved economy, Obama's decision demonstrates his ideological commitment to clean-energy development and opposition to carbon-based fuels.
Luckily for Obama, that preference also serves his interest as a beleaguered and not particularly popular incumbent running for re-election.
His Keystone decision will bolster the political support he'll receive from environmental groups, producing big donations and committed campaign supporters for his re-election effort.
For Obama, rejecting Keystone is win/win.
Unfortunately, that's not the case for the nation as a whole.
Whatever promise clean-energy development holds — and that's highly disputed — the U.S. will remain dependent on fossil fuels as an energy source for decades to come. Given that reality, it is in this country's interest to support projects like Keystone for a number of reasons.
Oil coming from Canada is much preferable to oil imported from other less-stable and less-friendly countries like Saudi Arabia or Venezuela. Almost as important are the thousands of U.S. jobs pipeline construction would have produced. Even as Obama touts the importance of putting people back to work, he turned his back on jobs that would do it.
Opponents have raised questions about the route the pipeline was scheduled to take, suggesting it would create potential environmental problems. Even if true — and this, too, is subject to disagreement — TransCanada indicated it was willing to modify the route to address that issue.
This oil will be produced by Canada one way or the other. If it doesn't go to the U.S., it will be sold by Canada to China. The only real question is who will use the oil — us or them. Obama prefers that it be China because he doesn't approve of conventional energy exploration on the domestic scene.
It's rare that presidents have the opportunity to make this kind of statement, mostly because there are few issues as cut and dried as Keystone. Just as Obama made no pretenses about where he stands, voters should have no trouble deciding what they think about it.