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Obama Teases on KXL, But Continues to Dodge Climate Peril

President says job-creating claims and gas price promises are folly, but won't acknowledge the reality of tar sands as "carbon bomb"

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Police on Friday remove Keystone XL protesters from a Washington office building. (Photograph: Jay Mallin/ZUMA Press/Corbis)Will he? Won't he?

President Obama has raised ears regarding his pending decision to approve or reject construction of the northern half of the Keystone XL pipeline by telling the New York Times in a weekend interview that supporters of the tar sands pipeline have exaggerated the project's ability to create jobs and misrepresented the impact it might have on domestic energy costs.

“Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator,” the president told the Times, but said there's "no evidence that that’s true. The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two, and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.”

Obama's latest comments come amid renewed energy by climate change activists who have said repeatedly that the Keystone XL would have absolutely devastating results in terms of carbon emissions and the exacerbating the growing threat of climate change.

Though likely to welcome Obama's adoption of some of their arguments, climate activists continue to be disappointed that Obama won't acknowledge the scientific consensus that Canada's continued expansion of its Alberta tar sands represents a "carbon bomb" when it comes to the impacts of global warming.

In a speech last month at Georgetown University, Obama raised the hopes somewhat of those campaigners by saying it would be on the basis of carbon pollution and climate impacts that he would ultimately judge the proposal.

As The Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg notes:

It was the second time in just over a month that Obama has cited the environmental effects of the pipeline, following his mention of the project in his sweeping climate change address.

But the president once again was not explicit about whether he thought the pipeline would accelerate climate change.

Tar sands crude is far more carbon intensive than conventional oil, and campaigners have cast the pipeline as a test of Obama's environmental commitment.

In addition, many climate scientists and environmentalists worry about Obama's overall energy strategy. Though they consider the Keystone decison an obvious bellwether, many say that his equivocating on tar sands and an "all-of-the-above" strategy that puts emphasis on "revving up" domestic drilling for natural gas, coal, and other un-conventional fossil fuels like shale oil proves that he doesn't really understand the emergency the planet is facing.

Though a draft assessment by the State Department--the final version of which may largely dictate how Obama justifies his decision--largely underestimates the impact of the pipeline's role in expanding carbon pollution, say critics, that assessment is under assault because large portions of it were written by a private consulting group with close ties to the companies that stand to benefit most if the pipeline is built.

On Friday, that company, Environmental Resources Management, became the target of climate campaigners who staged a sit-in at their corporate headquarters in Washington, DC to call attention to the company's nefarious connections to the pipeline and oil industries. Fifty-four people were arrested for trespassing after refusing to leave.

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