What Does Obama’s Newest Recruit Mean for Keystone?

John Podesta has record of skepticism about the pipeline.
Bruce Wallace


US President Barack Obama is bringing John Podesta, an influential Democratic Party strategist, into the White House as an adviser on issues that will include climate change. Podesta is a founder and chair of the centre-left Washington-based think tank Center for American Progress, which has been a vocal critic of the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing that its construction is “not in the national interest, nor is it in humanity’s interest.”

The White House said that Podesta would not deal specifically with the Keystone file, in part because of his position on the project. Under Podesta’s leadership, The Center for American Progress has urged Obama to deny the permits needed to extend Keystone across the Canadian border. But the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton will still have influence over White House climate change policy. Podesta has written articles calling for US energy independence and in favour of a clean energy economy. Last June, he praised Obama’s speech pledging to reduce carbon emissions as a step towards “restoring America’s global leadership to solve the climate crisis.”

In January, 2013, he called for a ban on drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic, writing in Bloomberg that “following a series of mishaps and errors, as well as overwhelming weather conditions, it has become clear that there is no safe and responsible way to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean.” And a year before, after Obama postponed an initial decision on whether to approve the entire Keystone line from Canada, Podesta co-authored an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal with anti-pipeline philanthropist and activist Tom Steyer calling for a greater emphasis on U.S. energy independence. They wrote:

In the hubbub around the president's decision not to approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline between Canada and the United States, Americans missed the big picture. While conservatives have been fighting to build a pipeline to import more foreign oil and deepen U.S. dependence, the U.S. is poised to transform its energy portfolio by developing domestic resources—renewable and mineral—that will let it become a net exporter of clean energy and energy technology in this decade.

For other articles on Keystone and related issues in Policy Options, see:

Dale Eisler on the need for social license

Mathew Nisbet on Bill McKibben’s anti-pipeline activism

Bruce Wallace is the editor of Policy Options magazine.