On January 21, 2009, The New York Times celebrated what it perceived as “an end to eight years of stark tension between science and government” and the start of a new era in which government officials no longer “insisted on tight control over even routine functions of key agencies.”

The paper’s inspiration was President Obama’s Inaugural Address, delivered the day before. America’s new chief executive proclaimed:

“For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift. And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We'll restore science to its rightful place, and …. harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”

If only all of this had actually happened in the six years since then. The Democrats’ economic “stimulus” package was an expensive flop. Solyndra was a politically-driven investment that predictably failed. Oil and gas energy production has fallen dramatically on federal lands. And if President Obama vetoes a bipartisan bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, he’ll once again be putting politics before American jobs and settled science:

  • According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the “annual increase [in carbon emissions] from Keystone would amount to less than three-tenths of one percent of our total annual CO2-e emissions — [or] 0.286546 percent, if you want to get precise. … [C]onsider that more than 10 times that much CO2-e gets released into the atmosphere each year from methane produced by cows.” (The Washington Post, 5/5/14)
  • “After two thorough environmental analyses, State Department experts determined that the pipeline’s impact probably would be minimal, even on climate change-inducing carbon dioxide emissions.” (The Washington Post, 4/23/14)
  • “Marcia McNutt, a scientist who headed the U.S. Geological Survey under President Obama until early 2013, announced Thursday that she now supports approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. McNutt is now the top editor at Science magazine. In an editorial published there Thursday, McNutt describes how she has come to back the project that she previously opposed, and does not believe it would worsen greenhouse-gas emissions.” (National Journal, 2/20/14)
  • A study commissioned by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and conducted by the National Academy of Sciences found that the type of crude oil the Keystone pipeline would carry is no more corrosive than others and would not increase the chance of leaks.

As the Canadian Ambassador wrote yesterday, the Obama administration should “choose hard hats over Hollywood, the intelligent, energy-efficient, safer infrastructure of a pipeline over rail, and Canada, an ally, over Venezuela.”

By approving Keystone, President Obama can reduce the tension his party has created between science and government, and relinquish his tight control over routine agency functions.

If he does not, The Washington Post can simply reprint its conclusion from last year:

“The administration’s latest decision is not responsible; it is embarrassing. The United States continues to insult its Canadian allies by holding up what should have been a routine permitting decision amid a funhouse-mirror environmental debate that got way out of hand. The president should end this national psychodrama now, bow to reason, approve the pipeline and go do something more productive for the climate.”


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