Over the weekend at the Asia-Pacific Economic Coperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu, President Obama raised a few eyebrows when he criticized a lack of ingenuity on the part of Americans in attracting foreign investment:
But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America.
President Obama’s choice of words was at best peculiar and at worst pedantic. Forty-eight hours earlier, the Obama Administration delayed approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline until after the 2012 election. The Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport crude oil from the oil sands in northern Alberta into the United States as well as U.S. domestic oil, is being built by TransCanada, which is based in Calgary. The last time I checked Canada is a foreign country. Ergo this would constitute foreign investment. Apparently, President Obama’s appetite for foreign investment isn’t as insatiable as he would have us believe. Talk about chutzpah in its crudest form.
The Keystone XL is actually an extension of the existing Keystone Pipeline that went into operation in 2008. The extension would have been twofold. First, the pipeline that currently ends in Oklahoma would be extended into the Gulf Coast of Texas. Second, the pipeline would be extended from its starting point in Hardisty, Alberta, and run through Montana and South Dakota before joining up with the existing pipeline in Nebraska.
The pipeline extension faced opposition from environmentalists, many of whom took their protest to the White House. Most of the opposition to the extension of the pipeline is centered in Nebraska where there are concerns that the pipeline could contaminate the groundwater in the Ogallala Aquifer that encompasses the Nebraska Sandhills. However, a report produced by the State Department back in August concluded the extension of the pipeline would have little environmental impact. But in facing a difficult bid for re-election next year, Obama dismissed reason and chose to placate the passions of the environmentalists. For its part, TransCanada has pledged to work with the State Department in looking at alternate routes for extending the pipeline but emphasizes that time is of the essence:
Keystone XL is shovel-ready. TransCanada is poised to put 20,000 Americans to work to construct the pipeline — pipe fitters, welders, mechanics, electricians, heavy equipment operators, the list goes on. Local businesses along the pipeline route will benefit from the 118,000 spin-off jobs Keystone XL will create through increased business for local restaurants, hotels and suppliers.
However, some believe this “delay” represents the death knell of the pipeline extension. Christopher Helman of Forbes writes:
So the Obama administration rejected Keystone XL. Oh sure, they want us to think it’s just a delay, a kicking of the Keystone can down the road. Officially, the state department just sent TransCanada back to the drawing board to look at a variety of other pipeline routes that do their best to avoid the Sandhills in Nebraska and areas overlaying the Ogawalla Aquifer. But don’t be fooled. This is a rejection plain and simple.
In the process of selecting the proposed route, TransCanada plotted and studied 14 different pipeline paths and submitted 10,000 pages of environmental studies. They’ve already studied this thing to death. So when the state department says this new review could be done by early 2013, can we really expect any different outcome than more delays?
All of which brings me back to President Obama. Consider what he had to say at a Democratic Party fundraiser in San Francisco last month:
Anybody been to Beijing Airport lately? Or driven on high-speed rail in Asia or Europe? What’s changed? Well, we’ve lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam and unleashed all the potential in this country.
Who does President Obama think he’s kidding? As Thomas Purcell points out, it took more than fifteen years for the Golden Gate Bridge to be built largely because of stonewalling on the part of the federal government:
Construction did not go as smoothly as planned. It takes another FIVE years for the government and the architects to come to agreement on the design. Furthermore, Federal contractor unions wanted the contracts to build the bridge and stalled the government on the issue, demanding they take action to halt construction unless they got the contract. Fortunately, local authorities insisted that as part of the contract only local labor would be used instead of Federal union contracts, insuring the area had work during Depression era unemployment.
And at the risk of conjuring up the image of Rachel Maddow wearing a hard hat, there is no way on God’s green earth the Hoover Dam would have be built in Barack Obama’s America. If there was a proposal on the table to divert the Colorado River, you could be sure that Robert Redford, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Darryl Hannah would be there to oppose it faster than you could say, “Splash!” As the Economist recently put it:
It was hard enough back then to overcome the rivalries of the seven states involved, but at least nobody gave a fig for the down-river rights of the south-western Indians, let alone the Mexicans, or the creatures whose habitats were eradicated when the river was damned. Today a rampart of federal legislation, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, would block the way.
At the risk of being crude, if President Obama was just a little less lazy about his economic policies and his knowledge of American history, then perhaps we wouldn’t find ourselves in this sorry state of affairs.