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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In his December 8 “Colbert Report” appearance, President Barack Obama gave his strongest signal yet that he may reject a presidential permit authorizing the Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma northern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

President Obama & Stephen Colbert (Source: Comedy Central Screenshot)

President Obama & Stephen Colbert (Source: Comedy Central Screenshot)

Yet just a week earlier, and little noticed by comparison, the pipeline giant Enbridge made an announcement that could take the sails out of some of the excitement displayed by Obama’s “Colbert Report” remarks on Keystone XL North. That is, Enbridge’s “Keystone XL Clone” is now officially open for business. 

“Keystone XL Clone,” as first coined here on DeSmogBlog, consists of three parts: the U.S.-Canada border-crossing Alberta Clipper pipeline; the Flanagan, Illinois to Cushing Flanagan South pipeline; and the Cushing to Freeport, Texas Seaway Twin pipeline.

Enbridge announced that Flanagan South and its Seaway Twin connection are now pumping tar sands crude through to the Gulf of Mexico, meaning game on for tar sands to flow from Alberta to the Gulf through Enbridge’s pipeline system.

Alberta Clipper, now rebranded Line 67, was authorized by Hillary Clinton on behalf of the Obama State Department in August 2009 and got a quasi-official permit to expand its capacity by the State Department over the summer. That permit is now being contested in federal court by environmental groups.

Flanagan South, meanwhile, exists due to a legally contentious array of close to 2,000 Nationwide Permit 12 permits handed out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which — as with Alberta Clipper expansion — has helped Enbridge usurp the more democratic and transparent National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process.

Geithner, Exxon Stand to Gain

Key actors within the oil industry have already indicated the opening of the floodgates is a game changer, enabling hundreds of thousands more barrels per day of tar sands dilbit to flow straight to the Gulf via Enbridge’s system.

Tar sands producer MEG Energy, for example, will send up to 100,000 barrels of heavy crude per day through “Keystone XL Clone.” MEG’s largest private equity owner is Warburg Pincus, whose current president is Timothy Geithner, former Secretary of the Treasury under President Obama.

Timothy Geithner; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

And a recent story published by Bloomberg noted that ExxonMobil subsidiary Imperial Oil — owner of the Kearl Oil Sands project — will ship some of its tar sands product through Flanagan South.

Adding to Climate Change Problem

On “The Colbert Report,” Obama cited the myriad problems of Keystone XL North — not noting he has already approved Keystone XL South via Executive Order — and then juxtaposed that with what he deems its few benefits.

“We’ve got to make sure that it’s not adding to the problem of carbon and climate change. We have to examine that, and we have to weigh that against the amount of jobs that it’s actually going to create, which aren’t a lot,” Obama remarked. “Essentially, this is Canadian oil passing through the United States to be sold on the world market. It’s not going to push down gas prices here in the United States. It’s good for Canada.”

Then Obama closed with a note about the climate impact, offering words just as true for TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline System as they are for Enbridge’s “Keystone XL Clone,” otherwise known as the Western Gulf Coast Access Initiative in the company’s business nomenclature.

“These young people are going to have to live in a world where we already know temperatures are going up,” said Obama. “We’ve got to measure [the pipeline’s benefit] against whether or not it’s going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet — which could be disastrous.”

Climate change makes no exceptions for tar sands pipelines owned by Enbridge versus those owned by TransCanada. After all, at the end of the day, climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions is really just a terrifying mathematical equation, and carbon is carbon.

Whether it’s called Keystone or Enbridge or something else, a tar sands export pipeline by any name is a fuse to a carbon bomb the world cannot afford.

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