Obama fundraiser targets Keystone pipeline in TV campaign

TV ads funded by billionaire Tom Steyer rebut claims Keystone XL will boost US economy and generate jobs

By Ed King

Billionaire investor Tom Steyer has launched the first of four TV advertisements highlighting what he says are the economic negatives from the Keystone XL pipeline.

The 56-year old Californian, who has raised funds for Barack Obama, John Kerry and Hilary Clinton, says Washington politics gas “got in the way of real world facts”.

In the first commercial, part of a US$1 million campaign, he warns the pipeline will not deliver the economic benefits to the US its backers promise.

“Keystone oil will travel through America, not to America,” he says. “Deals have been cut and America is cut out,” he adds.

Steyer, who cut his teeth at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s, is a seasoned environmental campaigner who is also behind efforts to back candidates determined to tackle global warming.

According to Bloomberg, Steyer says his actions are aimed at giving the President “political space to reject the pipeline”, although it is still unclear when he may make a decision.

The next commercial is set to focus on the small Arkansas town of Mayflower, which is still recovering after an Exxon Mobil pipeline burst in March, spilling 5000 barrels of Canadian crude.

Some commentators have speculated that the diluted bitumen it was carrying from Canada was responsible for the pipeline’s failure. Bitumen is more corrosive than crude oil.


The proposed US$7 billion, 2,200 mile Keystone pipeline could carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to refineries on the USA’s Gulf coast.

Only Venezuela and Saudi Arabia have larger reserves of oil than Canada, which exports more barrels to the US than any other country.

In theory the State Department will have the final say over the pipeline’s construction, but it is commonly accepted that President Obama will decide if it proceeds.

Obama is on record as saying the effects of the pipeline on the climate will determine if it proceeds.

In July he mocked backers who claim it will create thousands of new jobs, suggesting it would “maybe” generate 2000 new positions.

Last week Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly sent Obama a letter offering joint action on climate change if he approved the project.

The Keystone project is in both countries’ national interests and will create jobs and economic growth on both sides of the border while increasing North American energy security,” Harper spokesman Stephen Lecce told Reuters.

“Canada and the U.S. have integrated economies and oil and gas sectors, which underscores the importance of continuing to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

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