Obama’s Energy Review Seen as Keystone Pipeline Slowdown

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

A mock oil pipeline is carried during a Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline demonstration near the White House in this Nov. 6, 2011 file photo.

A Quadrennial Energy Review ordered by President Barack Obama to study the infrastructure for “transporting, transmitting, and delivering energy” may be dubbed something else by analysts: “The Delaying a Decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline Until After the Midterm Elections Initiative.”

“The administration will take any and all opportunities to slow this train,” says Michael McKenna, a Republican lobbyist and strategist who supports the $5.4 billion proposed link between Alberta’s oil sands and U.S. ports.

The review, ordered by Obama yesterday from the Energy Department, “certainly qualifies as an opportunity to slow progress,” he says.

First Energy analyst Steven Paget says the energy infrastructure review provides “perfect cover” to delay the KXL decision until after the midterm congressional elections in November.

Environmental groups say the project is a threat to the climate. Canada, a U.S. ally, wants the line to help it develop its energy resources.

Obama said in his memo yesterday that the review should be done every four years. The first is due Jan. 31, 2015, after the November elections that will determine control of Congress.

The study will focus on broad policy questions and not on any particular project, according to a White House official who requested anonymity to discuss the plans.

The State Department is completing an environmental review of the pipeline project. After its release, the department will determine whether Keystone is in the U.S. national interest, weighing factors including the environment, energy security, economics and the U.S.-Canada relationship.

Dan Weiss, senior fellow and director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to the administration, says he doesn’t think the energy review and the Keystone decision were connected.

“The Quadrennial Energy Review of energy infrastructure is unrelated to the pending decision on the Keystone XL pipeline,” Weiss said in an e-mail. “The Keystone pipeline would significantly increase carbon pollution by boosting tar sands oil production, but it is not part of our vital energy infrastructure.”

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