Is 2014 the 'Year of Action' for Keystone XL?

A new report could clear the way for the Keystone pipeline to become a reality.

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We’ve been down this road before.  The president has often proclaimed his "all of the above" energy advocacy, but with no movement on the Keystone XL pipeline approval he has frustrated people on both sides of the issue. He’s managed to alienate the large number of Americans for whom the pipeline is a no-brainer, and, the environmentalists too, who are aghast at the thought that this pipeline would even be considered.

Last week, the president gave his State of the Union address and declared that this year he is going to get things done even if he has to go it alone.  He said 2014 would be a "year of action." 

[See a collection of political cartoons on gas prices.]

Just three days after his speech Bloomberg News reported “the pipeline cleared a key hurdle today with a government study that found its impact on the climate would be minimal, which supporters said meets President Barack Obama’s test for allowing the project to be built. In its final environmental review, the U.S. State Department found the Canada-U.S. oil pipeline would not greatly increase carbon emissions because the oil sands in Alberta will be developed anyway.”

“We are one step closer toward approval of the Keystone XL pipeline,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat and pipeline supporter, said in a statement. “Not only is it unacceptable, but it’s embarrassing that we cannot approve a pipeline application in the time it took us to fight World War II.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also jumped in. He said, “It’s now time for the president to follow through on his promise to make 2014 a 'year of action' — to follow through on his pledge to use his 'pen and his phone' to get things done. If he’s serious, he’ll use the pen he keeps talking about to immediately sign off on this massive, shovel-ready project that promises to create thousands of jobs.”

[See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.]

Remember, this pipeline is not going to impact retail gas prices in the near future, and in the long-term, its impact on domestic prices could be negligible. Morgan Stanley cautions that “the State Department’s release of its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Keystone XL is a positive, but provides little clarity on timing. As for approval, a decision will not occur before late 2Q14 at a minimum and is more likely to come after the election.”

Nonetheless, under the circumstances it appears that further postponement on Keystone XL could not only cancel some jobs, but could bring additional damage to the president’s credibility and any actions that may need consensus from both sides of the aisle.  

Many believe this recent report will prompt the Keystone pipeline’s approval.  Do you?