The image that will stick with me from yesterday's failed attempt by Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to avoid a filibuster on her bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is that of her Senate colleague, Barbara Boxer (D-CA) standing next to a blown-up photo of choking smog, presumably in China. Inconveniently, the greenhouse gases at the heart of this debate are invisible and global in effect, rather than local like the pollution from unscrubbed coal plants half a world away. Senator Boxer's smog ploy epitomizes the confusion and misinformation surrounding this project.
That extends to the White House, where the President's recent arguments against the pipeline reflect beliefs, rather than facts, and stand in contrast to the findings of his own administration on the economic and environmental impact of the pipeline, or of oil exports, should some of Keystone's oil be sold into the global market from the Gulf Coast.
Yesterday's defeat is likely to be more final for Senator Landrieu than for the pipeline. She goes into next month's runoff election as a distinct underdog, based on recent polling. The pipeline, however, will likely get another opportunity in the new Congress early next year, when supporters are expected to have an easier time coming up with the 60 votes necessary to bring a bill to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote. The project may even benefit from having avoided a Presidential veto now, since the fig-leaf of letting the review process run its course would have been more transparent this time than when the President rejected the pipeline in 2012.