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John Podesta, prominent Democratic strategist and former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, will now be formally joining the White House, as was announced yesterday. According to the Washington Post, Podesta's portfolio in this new role would be "broad" and would include climate change, executive actions, and the implementation of the health care law.

Podesta is well known for his role as founder of the Center for American Progress, which recently celebrated its ten year anniversary. CAP has very close ties with the Obama administration, and there's a considerable interchange of staff. Over the past few years, CAP has tended to toe the White House line on economic and foreign policy issues while often criticizing the administration from the left on social issues and environmental issues.

John Podesta has been an outspoken opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline. Yesterday, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker reported on Podesta's past statements on Keystone and the wider issue of climate change:

Podesta told me earlier this year that his case against Keystone was twofold. One, he believed the weight of the evidence suggested that the pipeline would indeed accelerate the production of oil from the oil sands and increase greenhouse-gas emissions over the long term. “There’s a lot of oil flowing from there, right? They’re not gonna stop doing that. But do we want to facilitate supercharging that?” he said. “That’s the question. And the answer to that I think is no, because of the climate impact.”

He was emphatic that Obama’s own test cannot be met. “I think he should not approve it,” Podesta said. “I’m of the view that you just can’t meet the standard now that Obama set out: Does it or does it not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution? What are the net effects? And I think a fair review of that would say the net effects are big and they’re negative.”

In his interview with me, Podesta also argued that if Obama wanted to get anything accomplished in a second term, the President had to be expansive in his use of executive power. Climate-change policy, Podesta believes, is fertile ground. Without any involvement from Congress, Obama’s E.P.A. can implement regulations to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, and the President could set a new course on energy policy by cancelling Keystone.

“We don’t know at the end of the day how you change the national and global mindset,” Podesta told me. “But if Obama did say no, what does that do to finally force some tough decision-making into the climate world? It could have a fairly significant impact on people’s understanding about what the problem is and the cost of adapting to a warming planet.” For Podesta, a decision by Obama to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline could be a turning point in the larger fight against global warming—a moment, he said, that could begin “to reverse” the effects of climate change.

Lest you find that too promising, POLITICO reported yesterday that John Podesta will be recusing himself from the Keystone XL issue. He's supposed to be advising the president on climate change but can't touch the issue of building a large pipeline through the middle of the country to bring dirty tar sands oil from Canada to the export market in the Gulf, a pipeline opposed by the nation's leading climate scientists? That doesn't seem to bode well to me.

Have any other members of the administration recused themselves from issues like that before? It seems like a rather strange move.

Originally posted to Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:13 AM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'd be surprised if XL isn't a done deal (8+ / 0-)

    and will be one of Obama's crowning achievements next to the expansion of the NSA's lawlessness, drone warfare and the TPP.

    Obama: self-described Republican; backed up by right-wing policies

    by The Dead Man on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:33:39 AM PST

    •  I believe I heard a news item on NPR yesterday (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      John Crapper, Kombema

      morning stating that the southern section of the Keystone XL from Oklahoma (I forget the town) to the Gulf has been completed. Sounds like a done deal. Stick a fork in us, because we're done too.

      "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

      by Lily O Lady on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:42:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Only from Oklahoma to TX. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lily O Lady, John Crapper, Kombema

        theres lots of oil in the ground in  Ok. so whether or not KXL is approved, they will put the southern section to use.

        .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:52:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  But I think completing the southern section (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          John Crapper, Kombema

          is intended to make it sound like a fait accompli since it carries the Keystone XL brand. And isn't the pipeline in need of certain specifications that enable it to carry the tar sands slurry?

          "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

          by Lily O Lady on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:59:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Then why delay for 4-5 years? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, John Crapper

      .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:50:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  So the "free market" can do its work (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roger Fox

        If tar sands go the way of coal, i.e., become too expensive to finance because of all the externalities coming home to roost, then Obama doesn't have to actively make a decision, it's already made for him.  

        All the more reason for groups like to keep hammering away at divestment to make the real powers behind the scenes, the bankers, realize that they are not going to make money on fossil fuel energy investments and that the carbon has to stay in the ground.

        •  Excellent comment (0+ / 0-)

          & I agree wholeheartedly. Your thinking encompasses a larger logic tree.

          .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 08:37:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The net effect is not known (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    John Crapper
    That doesn't seem to bode well to me.
    Based on what? The WH and State dept policy has been to delay a decision on KXL, this has bought time for opposition to grow, meanwhile, at every avenue the tar sands partners have been stymied.

    1)Natural gas pipelines needed to expand tar sands production go nowhere.

    2) Northern Gateway pipeline has been stalled for longer than the KXL.

    3) Pipeline proposals to the Atlantic were shelved, and more recently brought back to life, Trailblazer & Energy East.

    This has pretty much truncated expansion of the tar sands, sans rail car and barge traffic.

    They need 5-8mpd of pipeline capacity, they aren't anywhere near that, and remember the tar sands are landlocked.

    The longer the delay on the KXL the better.

    Has Kerry divested his trust of tar sands interest? to the tune of millions.

    To date, the Actions of the WH & State have been bad for the tar sands partners. this is an established pattern over 3-5 years.

    If Podesta is recusing himself because he knows KXL will be approved, then why has this admin waited for so long, unless they have left the door open for not approving KXL.

    The delay is bad for the KXL & the tar sands partners. Why would the WH want to hurt them?

    .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:49:15 AM PST

  •  Republished to (2+ / 0-)

    Climate Change SOS.

    .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:50:23 AM PST

  •  Its totally ridiculous (2+ / 0-)

    So the standard is that the presidents advisors cannot have an OPINION?? I think this is either:

    a)Podesta recusing himself so he won't be tagged for selling out if Obama approves Keystone or

    b)the WH so paranoid about not making it look like they're influencing the state departments review prematurely that they proactively recuse an advocate for rejecting the pipeline.

  •  I do agree with those who say (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox

    this doesn't signal anything one way or another. It could be Podesta from an approval of the pipeline by Obama or Podesta not making it seem he influenced the WH over State should Obama reject the pipeline.

    Still weird either way, and it shows the WH is way to worried about fallout, in either direction.

  •  At this point Podesta (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox

    should recuse himself from public discussion.  The two agencies involved are State and EPA.  EPA has done a good job at keeping State in line with the law and regulations.  No need to throw his weight around.

    As with every single administrations -- advisors are just that -- they advise and not for public consumption.  The Administration, as with the rest of the aware world, already knows Podesta's stated opposition.

    There is a regulatory process -- he isn't part of it.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 12:16:07 PM PST

    •  Sounds like the voice of reason (0+ / 0-)

      And I'd like to believe it is.

      But if he isn't part of any regulatory process - from what, exactly, is he "recusing" himself?  

      Assuming you're right, that his statement has no operative meaning, the goals here must be:

      - To tamp down an onslaught of lobbying by the Koch clan in reaction to the appointment, which would be a forlorn and pointless hope.

      - To unruffle the feathers of coal state Democrats, in hopes of retaining legislative support for other clean energy initiatives, like the new EPA rules. A slightly less forlorn and not entirely pointless hope.

      Or even:
      - To signal to those on the sane side of the climate wars not to let the appointment make us get complacent, that Congress and the White House are under heavier siege than we realize.

  •  KXL is an attempt to make the United States (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox

    even more dependent than it now is on the use of imported hydrocarbon liquids derived from tar sands with high penalties of greenhouse gas emissions and high terrestrial impacts.

    This is the most compelling reason why President Obama should not approve the KXL northern portion.

    Environmental groups claiming that KXL is an "export pipeline" when such tar-sand-derived liquid hydrocarbons are destined for U.S. guif refineries is an exercise of environmental organization advocacy malpractice since such an "export pipeline" claims undermine the fundamental claim objecting to a presidential decision to make the United States more dependent on tar sands derivatives production.

    •  Right, we dont know if KXL will be for export (0+ / 0-)

      But it does appear that a pipeline reversal and IIRC one other project is in the works that would connect Port Arthur to LOOP, about 800kbpd.

      PADDIII has more than enough cracker capacity to crack bitumen from a completed KXL, and process it to light sweet syncrude for export to the western EU.

      The potential for KXL bitumen to be exported is real, but as of now would be conjecture.

      And the ability for western EU and Asia to economically absorb a price of $10 a gallon is much better than the US.

      .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 08:56:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  He's an adviser, not a decision maker. (0+ / 0-)

    Why does it matter if he decides to recuse himself? Anyway, he could be recusing himself b/c he made public pronouncements on the subject.

  •  Politico doesn't know what it's talking about here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox

    Podesta will be giving his advice to Obama directly on a range of environmental subjects. You can be sure that Keystone is one of them. Of course whether Obama follows his advice is the president's decision.

    I am very encouraged that Podesta had been appointed.


    and on public lands & Podesta see:

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 07:42:55 PM PST

  •  Podesta has POTUS's ear (0+ / 0-)

    and when asked his opinion on KXL by POTUS, we already know what he will say. POTUS will not admit Podesta involvement when he rejects the KXL.

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