A few days before COP 21, an encouraging sign has just been given by President Obama. He has in fact just vetoed the Keystone XL oil pipeline project designed to join the network of pipelines crossing the United States to bring oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Keystone XL is a pipeline project with a capacity of 830,000 barrels per day. It was to run 1,900 km between Alberta and Nebraska, where it would be connected to the existing grid. It was to connect hydrocarbon fields in Canada to the existing network in the United States.
Its construction, with an estimated budget of $8 billion to be raised by the Canadian company TransCanada, would bring the oil sands and heavy crude oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.
Critics of Keystone XL urged Obama to veto the project, believing that it would promote carbon emissions and thus run counter to the fight against global warming. The environmental associations denounced, in particular, the techniques used to exploit the Alberta oil sands, which are responsible for massive greenhouse gas emissions.
" America is now a world leader in taking decisive action to combat climate change. Frankly, approving the bill would have undermined that global leadership...« The US President said he would be in Paris to attend the COP21 world climate conference, which opens on 30 November for two weeks.
" In three weeks from today, I look forward to joining my counterparts from around the world in Paris, where we will all gather around an ambitious framework to protect the only planet we have.« said Barack Obama.
" And if we want to prevent the effects of climate change, the time for action is now, and not later or some day, but here and now.
"I'm optimistic about what we can accomplish together...« he said.
Keystone XL is at the heart of a political struggle between the oil industry and environmentalists. Hillary Clinton, favorite of the Democratic primary, has recently sided with the opponents of the project, while most of the candidates for the Republican nomination are on the contrary supporters.
The Canadian company carrying the project would have liked to postpone decisions until after Obama's term in office in the hope that a Republican would be elected to the U.S. presidency and would not interfere with the project.
Although the project is dead for now, the decision of the Obama administration will probably not be the end of this saga. The project's backers could turn to the courts to oppose the decision, and the Republican-controlled Congress could try to override the presidential decision, although such efforts have failed in the past. The proposal could also be revisited in 2017 if a Republican is elected to the White House and invites TransCanada to reapply.