President Obama's much anticipated speech on climate change is underway at Georgetown University. Watch it below, and read our preview/overview if you haven't. Even before it begins, though, a bit of new news: among his proposals, the president will reportedly set a critical emissions measure for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
That news comes from Sam Stein at the Huffington Post, by way of an unnamed administration official.
"As the executive order on Keystone contemplates, the environmental impacts will be important criteria used in the determination of whether the Keystone pipeline application will ultimately be approved at the completion of the State Department decision process," said the senior administration official. "In today’s speech, the president will make clear that the State Department should approve the pipeline only if it will not lead to a net increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions."
For opponents of the pipeline, this will be surprising — and very welcome — news. For months, skeptics suggested that the president was likely to approve the pipeline; some saw today's announced crackdown on carbon dioxide as a potential point of leverage with environmental groups for the political space to approve the pipeline. But moreover, multiple recent studies, including one described by Scientific American in April have shown that the Keystone pipeline would indeed yield a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The pipeline will funnel a product called dilbit, diluted bitumen, from tar sands in Alberta to the Gulf Coast. The sludgy fossil fuel product uses more energy for extraction and processing than more conventional fuels, which could result in 181 million metric tons of greenhouse gas annually.
A draft environmental analysis released by the State Department in March downplayed that volume of emissions, primarily by assuming that the tar sands would be developed regardless of the existence of the Keystone XL pipeline — which is itself a debatable assumption. Regardless, the president could make a rhetorical point on Keystone today and then point to the draft State analysis as justification for approving the pipeline.
We shall see. Watch the president's speech below.