Why Obama's Cushing Pipeline Push Won't Excite Voters

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The press release issued late on Wednesday by the White House previewing President Obama's appearance at the Cushing, Okla. oil hub on Thursday doesn't make for an entertaining read. It's also hard to imagine that it will shift the debate about high gas prices.

Earlier in the day, when the market drove up the price of WTI crude oil, at least in part based on the expectation that the Cushing Pipeline - running from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast - would move full speed ahead, Republicans downplayed the White House offensive as a game of strategic misdirection.

The grand prize, the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, which would connect the Cushing Pipeline to the oil riches of Canada and North Dakota, still isn't moving anywhere, caught up in the contentious battle between big money political interests on both sides of the aisle.
The pain-at-the-pump election year issue is not likely to be decided by a wonky discussion of bureaucratic processes.

Leaving that political fracas aside, the White House plan to convince Americans that it understands the pain-at-the-pump and has the consumer's back sure didn't read as such in the mind-numbing, bureaucracy-bundled words that are to be on Obama's lips at Cushing.

Here's a glimpse of the Executive Order on Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects:

"Because many permitting and review decisions for significant infrastructure projects involve multiple Federal agencies, the Executive Order sets up a Steering Committee chaired by the Office of Management and Budget's Chief Performance Officer and composed of relevant Federal agencies and directs it to develop a Federal government-wide plan by the end of May that includes clear deliverables and timelines for reducing the amount of time it takes to make permitting and review decisions. This Federal Plan will institutionalize permitting and review improvements like conducting permitting analyses and reviews concurrently rather than sequentially to eliminate duplication; enhancing coordination with State, local, and tribal governments; engaging early with stakeholders; and using information technology to replace outdated paperwork."

Is it just me, or how can a plan so laden in bureaucratic speak possibly connect with voters? It helps little in my estimation, if it is the White House goal to gain the upper hand in the debate over gas prices, when the White House adds, "The Executive Order will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes the Federal government to make permitting and review decisions for infrastructure projects such as roads and surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resource projects, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission, broadband, and pipelines."

It took me so long to get to this summation paragraph that the last thing on my mind was anything about being on any fast track.

The White House added in a bit of hemming and hawing to its base -- to protect the anti-oil and gas dollars that flow through its lobbying pipeline -- that all of this fast tracking must occur while preserving the environment and ensuring pipeline safety. Logical enough, and probably wise -- let's hope the PG&E San Bruno, California tragic explosion from 2010 hasn't been forgotten already. Though no doubt, the Republicans and oil and gas interests will immediately turn this around to show Obama's continuing focus on unnecessary regulations that stifle the economy and job creation, while keeping gas prices high.

The CEOs of four Oklahoma-based oil and gas giants, Devon Energy ( DVN), Chesapeake Energy ( CHK), SandRidge Energy ( SD) and Continental Resources ( CLR), took just this tack on Wednesday to pre-empt the president, publishing an open letter to Obama in a daily Oklahoma paper that laid out their by-now typical arguments about why the country needs to foster more oil and gas development.

Of course, there was the key statement in the White House release that was expected:

"As part of this effort to develop American infrastructure, the President will also issue a specific Memorandum in Cushing directing federal agencies to expedite the Cushing Pipeline and other pipelines that relieve bottlenecks as the top priority of the new EO's permitting process. The need for pipeline infrastructure is urgent because rising American oil production is outpacing the capacity of pipelines to deliver oil to refineries. Expanding and modernizing our nation's crude oil and refined products pipeline infrastructure is a vital part of a sustained strategy to continue to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and enhance our nation's energy security."

Enough said, and come to think of it, the White House could have said more with less.

-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.

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