Politico, March 20, 2013
Environmentalists armed with new poll numbers have a warning for President Barack Obama: Approving the Keystone XL pipeline would put him at odds with core members of his base.
The poll reveals an electorate deeply split on the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline, which is wildly popular among Republicans and almost equally unpopular among Democrats. A small majority of people overall either support the project or don’t know what to think, according to results provided to POLITICO.
But the Center for Biological Diversity, the group that commissioned the poll, says the president should pay attention to what his most fervent supporters are saying. Sixty-eight percent of people who voted for Obama want him to reject the pipeline, the poll found.
Opposition is especially strong among Obama voters age 18 to 29, according to the survey conducted by Public Policy Polling. More than 60 percent think he would be breaking his promises if he OKs the pipeline — and 16 percent would feel betrayed.
Of course, Obama has already won his second term and will most likely never face the electorate again. But he’s also spoken of his desire to keep his base fired up during his second term.
Keystone could put a quick kibosh to that, said Jerry Karnas, the environmental group’s national field director.
“This thing is a potential mass demoralizer for a large amount of Democrats,” Karnas said.
“Keystone is bad news for America, its wildlife and the future health of our climate — and the people who put President Obama in the White House know it,” he added.
Administration officials have repeatedly said they’ll make the pipeline decision based on facts and science. The White House stressed Tuesday that Keystone isn’t even on the president’s desk.
“In line with long-standing precedent, the State Department is conducting the assessment of the project,” White House spokesman Clark Stevens said. He added that Obama will pursue his promises to confront climate change at the same time that he supports efforts to increase U.S. energy independence.
Still, the poll’s findings offer a glimpse at some of the political considerations at play as the administration weighs its stance on Keystone, an issue that pits supporters’ promises of jobs and energy independence versus fervent opposition from climate activists.
Some people proffering advice for the president say approving the pipeline would be a smart move to the middle — for instance, a January editorial in the scientific journal Nature said it would “bolster his credibility within industry and among conservatives” as he pursues strong action on climate change.
But Karnas said Obama needs to think longer term.
“His legacy is really hanging in the balance right now,” Karnas said. “He’s looking a lot more like an oil and gas president than he is a solar, wind and innovation guy.”
This article originally appeared here.
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