Fossil Fuel and 'Furious': A Summit of Scandals
President Obama found himself sandwiched between two scandals today at the White House.
By inviting his neighboring counterparts for the North American Leaders Summit, the president cast fresh attention on gun walking scandal Fast and Furious and the Keystone XL debacle while trying to keep the meeting focused on sustainable growth and job creation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to the meeting with plans to sell more oil and gas to China after Obama's denial of the Keystone pipeline, which would have carried some 700,000 barrels a day from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.
Obama has since tried to shove the oil spill back into the barrel, so to speak, by touting his support for the southern leg of the project, capped by a promotional visit to Cushing, Okla., where that segment would begin and flow to the Gulf. He's also said that TransCanada's re-application for the cross-border part of the pipeline would be expedited in the permitting process.
House Speaker John Boehner put a well-timed Keystone name drop into the weekend's Republican address, paving the way for Harper's visit, in which he urged Obama to push the Senate to pass House-approved energy bills.
"About the only thing the president has pushed the Senate to do is to prevent construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a job-creating project that the American people strongly support," Boehner said. "He personally lobbied Senate Democrats before the vote, and that may have made the difference."
"What the president ought to be doing is approving the Keystone Pipeline," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN's State of the Union Sunday. "This is this massive private sector project that will bring energy down from our friendly neighbor, Canada, to the United States. He’s blocking it."
The National Republican Campaign Committee even seized on the summit to send out an email against Ohio Democrat Betty Sutton, who's in a hotly contested redistricted race this fall with fellow Rep. Jim Renacci (R).
“Betty Sutton had another chance after President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline’s jobs and energy independence, and she chose once again to pander to the Democrats’ radical anti-energy donors by voting against the pipeline,” said NRCC Communications Director Paul Lindsay. “Sutton's efforts only managed to portray the United States as anti-business and anti-energy while pushing these potential manufacturing jobs and energy independence away to countries like China.”
But there was no mention of the pipeline at the Rose Garden press conference -- where Harper's statement was especially brief -- and only broad energy references in the joint statement issued after their meeting by the three leaders.
"Energy cooperation reduces the cost of doing business and enhances economic competitiveness in North America. We recognize the growing regional and federal cooperation in the area of continental energy, including electricity generation and interconnection and welcome increasing North American energy trade," they said, with the italics emphasis added by them. "We commit our governments to work with all stakeholders to deepen such cooperation to enhance our collective energy security, including the safe and efficient exploration and exploitation of resources. We support coordinated efforts to facilitate seamless energy flows on the interconnected grid and to promote trade and investment in clean energy technologies."
Harper, however, opened up on the subject at another Washington event today at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
"We can't be in a position that our one and only partner can say 'no' to our energy products," the prime minister said of the Keystone delay and the need for Canada to find other markets for energy exports.
"When one looks at the other options, oil from the Middle East or Venezuela, the choice should be obvious," Harper said.