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U.S. Senate fail to override Obama’s veto of Keystone XL oil pipeline

Precise discuss the controversy surrounding the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

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It’s been called “the dirtiest oil in the world” which befits a product that is behind one of the grittiest political feuds in Barack Obama’s presidency.

The commodity in question is Canadian oil sands crude. There are plans for a vast pipeline that would transport more than 800,000 barrels a day to Nebraska en route to refineries and ports along the US Gulf Coast. It’s been controversial ever since President Obama took office six years ago, as he has consistently refused to voice his own position on it. But almost the second after Republicans won control of the US Senate last year they said the Keystone XL pipeline would be the first bill the new Republican-led Congress would send to Obama.

The problem is – he appears to not like it. At least not yet. First and foremost he isn’t happy the bill attempted to bypass a report from the State Department on whether or not Keystone XL would benefit the country. That is expected in the coming months.

The president also has to pay heed to his own standards. He stated at Georgetown University that “allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Environmentalists have jumped on that arguing it’s not worth the carbon emissions that would be created by getting the oil out of the tar sands. The Environmental Protection Agency posted a letter on its website claiming that with the slump in oil prices recently, approving the pipeline would lead to further expansion of the tar sands of Alberta which in turn would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions. Campaigner Michael Brune from the Sierra Club says, “This alone makes the pipeline fail the president’s climate test. That’s the standard the president has set for rejecting Keystone XL, so we fully expect him to do just that.”

That claim was rejected by TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL. On its website it states, “The State Department, independent experts and agencies and climate scientists have all confirmed Keystone XL will have minimal impacts on the environment, GHG emissions and no detectable impact on climate change. In fact a new study by the highly-respected global consultancy HIS has reiterated that Keystone XL can be built with minimal impact to the environment and GHGs.”

The Republican Party wants to get the $8 billion pipeline approved, and badly. They’ve made it one of their top legislative priorities and to fail now would be humiliating. They argue it would create jobs, with the US Chamber of Commerce adding that it would “increase supplies of American and Canadian crude to refiners, and therefore bolster American economic and energy security”. As former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar put it, “At the end of the day we are going to be consuming that oil. So is it better for us to get the oil from our good neighbour from the north or to be bringing it from some place in the Middle East?”

The Republicans tried to override the president’s veto in the Senate, and needed a two thirds majority to do so. Surprisingly in a Republican controlled House – they only got 62 votes instead of 67, and 37 senators backed the president.

However the White House says it’s not over yet and told reporters to wait until the State Department report lands on the office in the Oval Office. Toying with the Republicans, without giving a hint of a timeline, the White House Press secretary Josh Earnest said, “The president will keep an open mind” and that it’s “certainly possible” that he would eventually approve the pipeline.