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The Art of Negotiation

April 3, 2012

Hey, congratulations, Obama administration!  You’ve proven your skill at negotiation and diplomacy.  While Keystone XL sits in limbo waiting for the election to complete so you can figure out whether it’s politically expedient to finally approve something, Canada will happily be building its own pipeline to BC so that China can buy it now.  (Thanks to Hot Air for the pointer… I wasn’t finding much this morning.)

Even if President Barack Obama approved the controversial Keystone XL pipeline tomorrow, at least some Canadian oil would still flow to Asia, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In a public one-on-one interview here with Jane Harman, head of the Wilson Centre think-tank, Harper said Obama’s rejection of the controversial pipeline — even temporarily — stressed Canada’s need to find other buyers for oilsands crude.

And that wouldn’t change even if the president’s mind did.

Wait, it gets better…

Harper also told Harman that Canada has been selling its oil to the United States at a discounted price.

So not only will America be able to buy less Canadian oil even if Keystone is eventually approved, the U.S. will also have to pay more for it because the market for oilsands crude will be more competitive.

Ooookay.  I’m really not completely against the administration.  What I usually note, though, is that it can’t seem to learn from its past mistakes, and it also seems to be totally convinced that charm overcomes dumb.  Remember the strange protocol gifts to England?  Remember the clumsy language with Russia?  Well, here’s another example.  The US assumed that they had a proximity to Canada, and that they had time to convince Canada that they wanted oil.  Well, Canada is seeing a global market for the stuff, and it wants to ensure that the market knows about the supply.  So, hello China.

This is all about political calculus.  The administration figured it could dance a thin line between union contracts that would build the $7B pipeline, and environmental groups who want to lobby us back to the stone age.  Well, it’s a no-go.  Even if the US builds the pipeline at this point, we’re in a competitive situation that means Canada gets money and the US gets to pay.  I don’t blame the administration for doing what it wants… he elected it and we get the consequences until we elect another one.  I do blame it for not learning that you can’t dance down the middle and hope to make both sides happy.

Updated: Tina Korbe weighs in:

This fallout from the president’s decision on Keystone XL underscores the truth that Obama does not make policy decisions in a vacuum. He’ll do what he will — and other countries will respond accordingly. Our famously “cerebral” leader might have preferred to have had more time to “sufficiently review” the project, but he didn’t. In the time frame he was given, he made his priorities perfectly clear: He cares more to retain the support of certain constituencies than to approve a project that would have created thousands of jobs and signaled to Canada that we’re committed to ensure a supply of affordable energy for ourselves…

Well, at least he’s consistent…

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