The PJ Tatler

Obama Tells O'Reilly that He's Waiting on the State Dept Before Deciding on the Keystone Pipeline

Whatever happened to “We can’t wait”? President Obama often insists that when Congress won’t act, he will. But he claims that he is allowing the State Department — which works for him — to dominate him on the question of whether to approve or reject the Keystone Pipeline.

WASHINGTON –  President Obama told Bill O’Reilly Monday on “The O’Reilly Factor” that he was waiting to get an official recommendation from Secretary of State John Kerry before proceeding with the Keystone Pipeline.

Obama also took issue with the number of jobs the pipeline would create after supporters said it would create tens of thousands.

“Keystone Pipeline, a new study comes in, environmental impact negligible, 42, 000 jobs. You’re going to OK it, I assume,” O’Reilly asked.

Obama responded, “Well, first of all, it’s not 42,000. That’s not correct. It’s a couple of thousand to build the pipeline.”

He said the next steps in the pipeline approval process would be to get “agencies to comment on what the State Department did, public’s allowed to comment, Kerry’s going to, then, give me a recommendation.”

Obama’s low-ball estimate — “a couple thousand jobs” he said — is wildly off the mark. It comes from a group called the National Resources Defense Counsel, which opposes the pipeline. It’s not a reliable number. Obama’s own State Department is in O’Reilly’s camp, according to Glenn Kessler.

The State Department also says the project could “potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a one-to-two-year period.”  State said the employment would translate into about $2 billion in workers’ earnings, $3.3 billion in construction and materials costs and $67 million in state and local taxes. That sounds like real money and quite a few jobs, at least in the short term.

Still,  echoing what the president said about operation of the pipeline, State says that “operation of the proposed project would generate 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, primarily for routine inspections, maintenance, and repairs. Based on this estimate, routine operation of the proposed pipeline would have negligible socioeconomic impacts.”

Ordinarily, we would expect the president to cite an estimate from his own State Department, rather than a think tank opposed to the project. (Note to President Obama: When researching such matters, reporters generally look askance at estimates produced by advocates or foes of a particular issue.)

Kessler notes that when Obama and his lieutenants speak on the impact of his stimulus programs, he and they routinely round way up on job numbers. But when it comes to the Keystone, Obama low rolls the jobs number by quite a bit. That earned the president a pair of Pinocchios. He wasn’t just off on his numbers, he was actively lying about them. Obama also avoids discussing the pipeline’s potential impact on fuel prices.

PolitiFact concurs with Kessler, giving the president a “False” rating. He deserves a “Pants on Fire,” but a straight “False” will do. But the thing is, that PolitiFact rating dates from July 2013. President Obama is undeterred, and shamelessly trotted out the same lie again, after the State Department has ruled that the Keystone will not harm the environment.

It’s significant that Obama dug in his heels again on the low jobs estimate, State’s ruling last week. If you’re reading the tea leaves in Obama’s O’Reilly interview, the president is signaling that he will end up not approving the Keystone. He is consistently downplaying its positive economic impact, but more importantly, is using the talking points from a think tank opposed to the project to formulate his arguments. That’s obviously who he is listening to. He isn’t even listening to his own State Department.