DEMOCRATS BLOCK KEYSTONE PIPELINE

Democrats Block Keystone Bill, Landrieu’s Plea Rejected

(TOM PENNINGTON/Getty Images)

November 18, 2014 The Senate narrowly rejected legislation on Tuesday that would have authorized construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a bitter blow to politically imperiled Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu less than a month before her Dec. 6 runoff election.

The vote was 59-41 on the legislation, which easily passed the House last week.

The fate of the heavily lobbied bill, which required 60 votes to pass, was uncertain until final votes were counted. And ultimately, despite the senator’s assurances to the contrary, Landrieu was not able to garner the votes needed for passage.

Going into the vote, Landrieu knew she had 59 Senators supporting her motion, but it was never clear where she’d get number 60. Democratic Majority Whip Dick Durbin was seen as one of Landrieu’s last options, but he voted no on the bill.

The bill has become intertwined with the political struggles of the Louisiana Democrat as she faces an uphill battle in her bid for reelection against GOP challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.

 Senate Democratic leaders, after long preventing votes on Keystone, last week agreed to a floor showdown at the behest of Landrieu, a co-sponsor of the pro-Keystone legislation, who is seeking to show that she can deliver on pro-oil policies in a state where the petroleum industry is a big part of the economy.
mock

But Capitol Hill Republicans, while unanimously backing the pipeline, have sought to prevent Landrieu from gaining political traction from the unexpected lame-duck Keystone fight. The latest House Keystone bill that passed last week was sponsored by Landrieu’s foe Cassidy.

Landrieu insisted she could secure 60 votes needed to pass the legislation with a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate as late as Tuesday morning. But despite the willingness of Senate leadership to allow a vote on the bill, Landrieu was not able to persuade enough Democrats to side with her in a vote to approve the pipeline.

The White House did not issue a formal veto threat on the project, but the president hinted in the days leading up to the vote that he would veto the legislation.

White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday: “It certainly is a piece of legislation that the president doesn’t support.”

Legislation green-lighting the oil sands project is certain to come to Obama’s desk next year, however, when Republicans take the reins in the Senate. Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to move swiftly to authorize the pipeline.

TransCanada Corp.’s project would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil each day from oil sands projects in Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the Gulf Coast. It would also carry oil from the booming Bakken formation in North Dakota.

Keystone is a big priority for Republicans and industry groups that have lobbied aggressively in favor of the pipeline. But it’s a political headache for Obama, and for Democrats in general, who are divided over the project.

Many labor unions back Keystone, but environmentalists–another pillar of Obama’s political base–bitterly oppose it and have mounted an aggressive campaign in recent years that has included numerous protests.

The Obama administration has spent six years weighing the project, and the president has repeatedly said in recent days that he wants to let the review play out. The president has also made critical comments about the project on his recent trip to Asia, buoying environmentalists.

“I have to constantly push back against this idea that somehow the Keystone pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States, or is somehow lowering gas prices,” he told reporters in Myanmar four days ago.

Landrieu

Obama has also said that he will not approve Keystone unless he’s certain that building the project would not significantly increase carbon emissions.

Republicans, who have said the project is an economic win that will boost U.S. energy security, used the debate to increase political pressure on the White House over Keystone.

“I say to President Obama, time is up, and the excuses have run out. It is time for you, Mr. President, to make a decision,” said Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican who is part of the GOP leadership team, during the floor debate Tuesday. Republican Sen. John Thune, who is also in leadership, noted that the pipeline has bipartisan support in Congress, and he said the Keystone opponents are “members of the far-left wing of the Democratic party.”

Environmentalists and Democrats against the project argue that Keystone will worsen global warming by serving as a catalyst for rapid expansion of carbon-intensive oil sands production in Canada.

“To protect the planet from catastrophic global warming, we need to leave four-fifths of the identified conventional fossil-fuel reserves in the ground,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, ahead of the vote. “But building the Keystone pipeline would open the faucet to rapid exploitation of a massive new unconventional reserve–that is, the tar sands–making it much less likely for human civilization to succeed in meeting that carbon budget that is so important to our future economic and environmental world.”

pro-pipeline.jpg_full_600

But a major State Department environmental analysis published in January generally rebutted claims that the pipeline is a linchpin for growing oil-sands production.

It concluded that construction of Keystone–one of several new oil-sands pipelines that companies are proposing–is unlikely to affect the rate of oil-sands expansion. That’s because growing use of railways to move oil can pick up the slack, even though moving oil by rail is more expensive.

However, State’s analysis also predicts that if no new pipelines are built to handle expanded oil-sands production, oil prices remaining in the $65-$75 per barrel range could curtail production, but the study calls this unlikely. Oil prices have been falling for months, and West Texas Intermediate crude oil is currently trading at around $75 per barrel.

The Energy Department’s statistical arm this month estimated that oil will average $78 per barrel in 2015, which is well below its previous forecast.

Canada is now rated higher for freedom than America

Unhappy Republicans Move to Canada? Economics-Wise, Not a Bad Destination.
J.D. Tuccille|Nov. 8, 2012 11:17 am

Among the perennial traditions of American politics are post-results, generally hot-air threats to flee the country if the “wrong” side wins — usually to Canada. Politico has a round-up of tweets by disappointed Republicans threatening to do just that. Leave aside, for now, that Canada doesn’t necessarily leave out the welcome mat for Americans upset over election outcomes. Politico writer Patrick Gavin thinks the whole thing — *chuckle*, *chuckle*, *snicker* — “doesn’t really make sense given Canada’s many socialized elements.” Except … it actually makes more sense than Gavin allows, if you’ve kept sufficiently up with the times to know that Canada now ranks as more free-market than the United States.

Assuming that the disappointed righties are of the sort that care more about economic freedom than banning abortions, Canada actually looks like a pretty promising destination. There are two big international indices of the relative economic freedom of nations, and Canada ranks rather higher than the United States in both of them.

On the Index of Economic Freedom, created by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, Canada is in sixth place, while the United States has fallen to tenth.

About Canada, the Index says:

Canada’s economic freedom score is 79.9, making its economy the 6th freest in the 2012 Index. Its overall score is 0.9 point lower than last year, reflecting worsening scores for government size and monetary freedom. Canada continues to be the freest economy in the North America region, though it has dropped just below the cutoff for characterization as a “free” economy.

Granted, that’s not a rousing endorsement. But compare that to what the Index says about the United States:

The United States’ economic freedom score of 76.3 drops it to 10th place in the 2012 Index. Its score is 1.5 points lower than last year, reflecting deteriorating scores for government spending, freedom from corruption, and investment freedom. The U.S. is ranked 2nd out of three countries in the North America region, and its overall score remains well above the world and regional averages.

The contrast is even more stark in the Economic Freedom of the World Report  compiled by an international coalition of organizations, including Canada’s Fraser Institute and America’s own Cato Institute. Here, Canada is ranked fifth, and the United States 18th. The report’s detailed look at North America  has this to say about the relative rankings of Canada and the United States:

Canada and the United States have pursued very different economic courses through the first decade plus a year of the 21st century. One course, followed by the United States, has led to decreasing economic freedom, especially as the financial crisis struck; the other has led Canada to a stable level of economic freedom with only small declines during the crisis.

Canada’s course was set in the mid-1990s, when the federal government dramatically reduced government spending. This led in time to a budget surplus, which disappeared during the recent financial crisis but allowed the federal government in Canada, unlike the American goverment, to avoid going deeply into deficit. The United States changed course in the early years of the new millennium, from fiscal responsibility and controlled spending to significant increases in spending and the creation of a huge budget deficit at the federal level, one that will likely lead to decreases in economic freedom in the future as coming generations will be taxed to pay off the debt created by the deficits.

It’s not just about overall government spending, though. Regulation plays a big role, too.

As well as the effects of loosened spending controls, the United States has faced several stock-market scandals, such as that brought on by Enron, and a housing bubble, at least in part caused by a failure of policy, the intervention of federal housing agencies in the housing market. Both developments have led to a spurt of regulatory growth, which has limited economic freedom. In addition, they have brought about numerous criminal prosecutions, which, if some are seen as having an arbitrary nature, may have contributed to a huge drop—from 9.23 in 2000 to 7.30 in 2009—in the United States’ score for Area 2: Legal Structure and Property Rights in Economic Freedom of the World: 2011 Annual Report. …

As an aside, it is worth noting that Canada achieved a higher economic-freedom score in credit regulations in the period leading up to the financial crisis—the Canadian regulatory climate was less restrictive of economic freedom than that in the United States—indicating that the solution to the crisis is not freedom-limiting regulations but rather properly structured regulations and the absence of the type of policy that can spur a bubble.

Oh … And the accounting firm KPMG says that Canada’s total tax burden is lower, on average, than that in the United States though the details depend on the structure of your finances and where, exactly, you live.

I’m sure that Mr. Gavin would, cleverly, retort, “but … but … socialized medicine!” And while it’s true that Canada does have a government-dominated healthcare system, the country has been moving, in recent years, toward embracing private medicine. By contrast, many of the GOP-types threatening to flee to Canada may, understandably, assume that Barack Obama’s re-election is moving the United States in the opposite direction, toward fully socialized medicine.