PRESIDENT OBAMA rejected the Keystone XL oil pipeline this time last year, a result that Canada had every reason to be dismayed by, as did Americans whom the project would have employed. The issue is coming back, and the president has even less reason to nix the project than he did last time.
After years of federal review, there was little question last year that construction of the pipeline, which would transport heavy, oil-like bitumen from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico coast, should proceed. Thousands of miles of pipeline already crisscross this country. An environmental analysis had concluded that the risks of adding this new stretch were low. An economic review had found that Canada would get its bitumen to the world market — if not via pipeline to the gulf, then very likely by ship to China. Supply would make it to demand, one way or another.
Environmentalists nevertheless made Keystone XL a rallying issue. Among other things, they pointed to disquiet in Nebraska about the pipeline’s proposed route, objecting that it would traverse environmentally sensitive areas, such as the state’s Sand Hills. Under pressure from Nebraska’s government, would-be pipeline builder TransCanada began looking at altering the route. In the meantime, facing a congressionally mandated deadline, the Obama administration rejected TransCanada’s application, citing the Nebraska routing question. Mr. Obama left open the possibility of approving a fresh application that, conveniently, would come after the presidential election.