Oil executive threatens Obama over Keystone XL

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / AFP
The largest energy firm in America is attacking President Obama, insisting that the White House’s refusal to cooperate with the Keystone XL pipeline will cause the commander-in-chief to suffer in the 2012 election.

The proposed pipeline would stretch roughly 1,700 miles into America out of the Canadian oil sands to the north and across a massive span of the US. Although backers insist that the effort would bring thousands of jobs and add to America’s reserve of natural resources, activists opposed to the plan have been largely agitated over the detrimental toll the pipeline would cause for the country's environment.

Facing increased opposition, including but not limited to a series of sit-ins and protests outside his own front door, President Obama delayed offering a decision on a permit that would have let the pipeline start immediately. Instead, said the president, it won’t be until 2013 when the White House will officially give Keystone the thumbs up or thumbs down on the project.

The American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil and gas lobbying group in the country, says that could be a problem for the president.

"This issue is very simple and straightforward, it's about jobs and national security," API President Jack Gerard told reporters in a speech this week.

"Anything less than approval or acquiescence in allowing the pipeline to go forward would be inconsistent with the vast majority of Americans," he added, and insisted that the failure to comply with the API and allegedly the American public would be a bad decision for the Obama administration.

"After waiting more than three years for this pipeline while the country faces prolonged unemployment, the American people are fed up with the president's inaction on a project that can quickly create jobs," Fred Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee, added in a statement of his own.

On the contrary, a recent Pew poll found that 71 percent of Americans think "This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment." Barely a quarter of those polled by Pew said they favored expanding exploration and production of fossil fuels.

The impact the API could have on Washington is nothing worth shrugging at. In 2011 alone, the group lobbied to the tune of nearly $6 million on Capitol Hill. At the same time, however, the API has made it abundantly clear that an Obama White House in 2013 is something they aren’t all that keen on. At the dawn of the election cycle, the API sponsored the New Hampshire Energy Freedom Family Festival in New Hampshire, an event attended by around 350 people that attacked the EPA and taxes on the oil industry.

Speaking at the event in support of their goals? GOP contender and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Last February, Martin Durbin, API’s executive vice president for government affairs, told Bloomberg News that the group was looking to throw their support behind someone come 2012 — and that would be an award welcomed only to a candidate deserving of their profits made by pilfering the Earth for oil

“At the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy debate,” said Durbin.

The API has previously paid for ads that attack policy issues they feel are against what the oil industry stands for, although the Obama administration, much to the API’s chagrin, continues to consider ending tax breaks for energy companies included in API.