When the topic of American energy imports comes up, it immediately conjures up images of the Persian Gulf and oil sheikdoms. In reality the major oil exporter to the United States is a great deal closer-over the border in Canada.
Additionally, this energy is secure, as Canada is a signatory to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and therefore cannot play shenanigans with supplying oil to the United States or arbitrarily seek to diversify its customer base, as occurred in the previous century.
Canada's oil reserves are exceeded only by Saudi Arabia.
The catch is that these oil reserves include the bitumens in the oil sands. Environmentalists claim that the process of extracting crude oil from oil sands generates a huge amount of greenhouse gases that are responsible for global warming.
Canada does not have the refining facilities to produce the oil. Enter the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport crude from the oil sands in Alberta via Montana and the Midwest and then down to Oklahoma and Texas and the refineries. Environmentalists charge that the pipeline poses a danger to the water supply and the farmlands.
The environmentalists demonstrated near the White House reminding Obama that he had campaigned in 2008 as a friend of the environment and had received financial and organizational support from environmental groups.
These groups cannot threaten to bolt to the Republican Party as with the exception of John Huntsman, Republican candidates are either agnostics or outright critics of the global warming theory. Their threat therefore is to sit out the election and in this way avenge themselves on Barack Obama.
The protesters also charge that the State Department had not performed due diligence and this could be explained, they charge, by ties between the pipeline executives and the campaign of Hillary Clinton who is currently Secretary of State.
The issue is touchy for the Obama administration because the multibillion-dollar pipeline will create many jobs and it therefore commands the backing of the trade unions --an important cog in the Obama coalition.
To avoid alienating parts of the president's constituency, observers on both side of the divide are predicting that the administration will shy away from a decision till after the election by claiming the need for further study of the issue.
In the case of delay, the Canadians have threatened that they will pipe the crude oil to ports on the Pacific and from there an eager and willing China will be happy to take the oil off their hands at a very good profit.