President Obama’s March 22 speech at the site of a TransCanada pipe yard in Cushing, Okla., was an attempt to highlight his administration’s energy policies as both economically sensible and environmentally sustainable. Its political symbolism was even more significant. Rising gas prices have eroded the president’s approval ratings, with some 23 percent of Americans blaming him for the spike. In particular, Republicans have hammered Obama for his rejection of TransCanada’s application to build its Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas, claiming that by passing up the opportunity to increase the flow of oil from Canada’s tar sands, the administration has directly contributed to higher gas prices.
Obama’s appearance in Cushing was intended to blunt those attacks. He promised to expedite the building of the “southern” portion of the Keystone pipe, which runs from Cushing to the Gulf Coast. The administration, he said, will “cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority.” In the process, the White House hopes to show it’s doing what it can to ease pain at the pump.