Many Americans lukewarm on Obama Keystone pipeline rejection

A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne North Dakota
A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota November 14, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen

November 13, 2015

By Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Many Americans are lukewarm on President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, with more than a third saying they didn’t care either way, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows.

Of 920 adults asked between Nov. 9 through Nov. 11 about the president’s decision, 35 percent said they neither agreed nor disagreed. Another 14 percent said they only somewhat agreed and 13 percent said they somewhat disagreed.

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline to link existing networks to let oil flow from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, was rejected by the Obama administration on Nov. 6 after years of deliberation.

The 1,200-mile (1931 km) pipeline out of Alberta’s oil sands became a flashpoint for environmentalists, who argued the U.S. should keep the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground as the country shifts to renewable energy and not enable additional oil extraction. Activists celebrated Obama’s decision in Lafayette Square across from the White House.

The poll showed how starkly the issue of approving the pipeline divides along political fault lines, with 30 percent of Democrats saying they strongly agreed, but just 6 percent of Republicans.

The approval process for the pipeline, which became an issue in the U.S. Democratic presidential race, began when Hillary Clinton was Obama’s secretary of state. For weeks on the campaign trail she resisted staking out her position, saying she would wait for the administration’s decision. In September she said she could wait no longer and recommended the pipeline’s rejection.

Clinton’s chief challenger, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has long said rejecting the pipeline was a “no brainer.”

Some leading Republican candidates, on the other hand, lambasted Obama for the decision, saying that the cancellation wasted an opportunity to create thousands of jobs and that he had caved in to pressure from special interest groups.

The number of permanent jobs the project would create is in dispute.

The poll had a credibility interval of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

(Reporting By Amanda Becker; Editing by Christian Plumb)