Is Obama's decision to fast-track part of Keystone a good one?

March 22, 2012 4:41:37 PM PDT
A portion of the long-debated Keystone XL pipeline is now getting the approval of President Barack Obama. It's the part of the line that would run from Oklahoma to Texas, and it could have an impact at the gas pump.

With gas prices above $3.85 a gallon, the high cost at the pump has a political price, too.

"Right now, gas prices are extremely high," driver Marvin Tate said.

"Whose fault is that?" we asked another driver.

"The government's," she said.

And President Obama isn't ignoring it. On Thursday, he announced he is fast-tracking the southern half of the Keystone pipeline from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast.

"So today, I've come to Cushing, an oil town," Obama said in a speech.

Because maybe it's Oklahoma's fault that your pump price is so high.

"Oklahoma? Why would we blame Oklahoma for it?" driver Skyler McKinnie said.

Right between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, is Cushing, Oklahoma, a small city that's home to the nation's largest oil tank farms. Oil from all over the northern half of the country comes in there, but because of a lack of pipelines, oil's getting backed up in Cushing.

It can't get from a tank in Oklahoma to your gas tank in Houston.

"There's a bottleneck there because we can't get enough of the oil to our refineries fast enough. And if we could, then we would be able to increase our oil supplies at a time when they're needed as much as possible," Obama said.

"I can't blame Oklahoma or anybody," Tate said.

"I think you should focus on football rivalries rather than blaming them for high oil prices," said James Coan, a researcher at Rice University Baker Institute.

Coan says easing the bottleneck may help a bit a year from now once the pipeline is finished. But...

"I am not overwhelmingly enthusiastic, but if you'd like to save a few cents per gallon, maybe that's reasonable," Coan said.

Obama calls the pipeline decision just one piece of his all of the above energy strategy. Republicans are less optimistic, pointing out the president doesn't even need to approve the pipeline and may not even be able to speed the process up.

Environmentalists call the decision awful.

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