Billionaire Steyer Rejects Trade With Obama on Keystone

President Barack Obama’s adoption of measures to combat climate change shouldn’t be seen as a trade off for approving the Keystone XL pipeline, a top donor to his re-election campaign said.

Hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer unveiled a social-media campaign today meant to organize supporters and pressure the president to reject the pipeline, which would carry oil sands from Alberta to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. Steyer hired a former Obama campaign digital producer, Tara McGowan, to help run the effort.

“There are cynics around the country who say Obama is going to trade Keystone” for other climate measures, Steyer, a co-founder of hedge fund Farallon Capital Management LLC, said at the National Press Club in Washington. “But the question is: Who is the trade with, and what is the quid pro quo?”

Obama in coming weeks will outline steps his administration will take to deal with climate change, including pursuing Environmental Protection Agency curbs on emissions from power plants, establishing energy-efficiency standards for appliances and approving more clean energy on public lands, Heather Zichal, his energy aide, said yesterday.

In a speech yesterday in Berlin, Obama said the U.S. “will do more” to cut carbon emissions. “The effort to slow climate change requires bold action,” Obama said, warning that more severe storms, famines and floods will affect all nations. “This is the global threat of our time.”

‘Good, Bad’

None of the actions Zichal suggested can compensate for approving TransCanada Corp.’s $5.3 billion the pipeline, Steyer and other activists said today.

“When you raise your kids, you cannot say, ‘Here is this one good thing I am doing, so ignore all the other bad things I am doing over here,’” said Van Jones, a former White House adviser on green jobs.

Steyer’s effort is aimed at using the online tools deployed by the Obama presidential campaign to press him to turn down the application by TransCanada. Organizing for Action, the policy group that emerged from the re-election campaign that raised $4.9 million in the first three months of this year, hasn’t taken a stand on Keystone.

For Obama, the downside “is making a big mistake,” Steyer said at a Bloomberg Government meeting with reports and editors today. “I know this is something they consider to be a red herring, but I think substantively it’s a very big thing.”

“Everyday the likelihood he approves the pipeline goes down,” he said.

The pipeline would carry about 830,000 barrels a day from the oil sands of Alberta and shale formations in the U.S. across six U.S. states. The administration has approved the line’s southern leg to relieve an oil glut in Cushing, Oklahoma.

Oil and gas producers say the project will create thousands of jobs and boost U.S. energy security. Environmentalists argue that the process for turning oil sands into fuel releases greater greenhouse gases than traditional oil, and that there are risks the pipeline could burst, spewing toxic sludge into communities along the route.

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