Kerry told the Senate Appropriations Committee recently that he expects to make a recommendation to President Obama to approve or reject the pipeline within about 60 days. That timeline could be delayed, however, depending on the outcome of appeals of a Nebraska judge's ruling that the method of approving a new route for the pipeline violated the state constitution.
Many pipeline foes have placed high hopes on Kerry's recommendation because of his comparatively tough talk on climate change. Others are convinced that despite his speeches saying action on climate change is essential, he will recommend approval of the project. His student questioner urged him to reject it. Quipping that 1.9 million people have made public comments about the pipeline, and the questioner made 1.9 million plus one, Kerry said:
“My job is to stay down-the-middle, neutral [...] There’s a massive job of information sifting and accumulation here [… ] I'm not commenting in any other way on it to anybody, including my wife and others, all of whom have opinions.”The State Department is currently reviewing the pipeline's much-disputed Final Environmental Impact Statement, public comments and the views of staff at several federal agencies to determine whether Keystone XL is in the "national interest." Such reviews are required any time a presidential permit is needed for pipelines, bridges and tunnels that cross international boundaries.
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There will be political fallout regardless of what Kerry recommends and what Obama chooses to decide. The question is, how much? If the president approves Keystone XL, that would put him at odds with environmental advocates, many of them young people who have demonstrated a growing disconnection from both Democrats and Republicans. If he rejects the pipeline, it means diplomatic tension with Canada whose tar sands petroleum would be transported by Keystone XL, with many unions, with some Democratic governors, with a significant number of Democratic senators and representatives, and with a plurality of rank-and-file Democrats, according to various polls.
The latest one, a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, asked, "Do you favor or oppose building the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport oil from Canada’s oil sands region through the Midwest to refineries in Texas?" It found that 49 percent of Democrats favor building the pipeline, with 38 percent opposed. Eighty-four percent of Republicans favor it, with 9 percent opposed. Sixty-one percent of independents favor it against 29 percent opposed.
Democrats are divided in various ways, including gender and income:
Democrats with annual family incomes of at least $100,000 are the least likely group to support the pipeline: about half (51%) oppose Keystone and 36% support it. Those with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 are divided, while there is more support than opposition among those with family incomes of less than $50,000.There was also a somewhat surprising age divide in the survey. Fifty-five percent of those age 18-29 favor the pipeline, but only 45 percent of those 30-49 do, and 50 percent of those 50 and over favor it.
As Pew Research polls last year found, moderate and conservative Democrats continue to be far more likely than liberals to favor building the pipeline (56% vs. 40%).
In addition, there is less support for Keystone among Democratic women than men. About as many women oppose (38%) as favor (43%) the pipeline, with 19% offering no opinion. By comparison, a 58% majority of Democratic men favor Keystone and just 37% oppose it.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll found 85 percent of respondents saying they thought building the pipeline would generate a significant number of jobs. Critics say that propaganda about job creation is part of what is driving support for the pipeline higher than it otherwise would be. The Pew survey did not ask a jobs-related question.