Kern County oil and gas companies, cut off by geography from any direct benefits of the Keystone Pipeline proposal, nevertheless joined the national petroleum industry Friday in expressing disappointment with President Barack Obama’s rejection of the politically fraught infrastructure project.
Locally operating petroleum producers said the White House missed an opportunity to enhance national energy security and bolster the U.S. economy when he blocked a years-old proposal that would have connected Canadian tar sands oil fields to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries by way of an 800,000 barrel-a-day pipeline.
“The long-term interests of the U.S. are best served by policies that allow for oil and natural gas to be imported or exported in response to free trade principles and market conditions,” San Ramon-based Chevron Corp., which has no financial interest in the Keystone, said in a written statement.
Also standing with the larger industry was House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who repeatedly took to social media Friday to criticize Obama’s pronouncement that extending the pipeline would have posed greater risks to the global climate than it offered in terms of jobs and other economic benefits.
The Bakersfield Republican posted messages saying the president has “slow-walked” a decision on Keystone “to death,” and that rejecting the project cost thousands of good-paying jobs and other benefits.
“The president’s approach to this process and his ultimate decision reveals a lack of leadership when facing tough issues,” McCarthy said on Twitter.
Local environmentalists, on the other hand, expressed support for a decision they said recognizes the wisdom of investing in renewable energy technologies instead of fossil fuel development.
“True security is strongly related to a livable planet and will only come from decreasing our reliance on fossil fuel dramatically over the next 15 years,” local activist Tom Frantz said by email.
Added Gordon Nipp, leader of a local chapter of the Sierra Club: “The Keystone decision is a step forward in letting the fossil fuel industry know that (it) will have to adjust to change ... to a renewable, sustainable energy future.”
One of Kern’s largest oil and gas producers, Los Angeles-based California Resources Corp., interpreted Obama’s rejection as a sign that domestic petroleum companies will have to step up and increase production. It said the administration’s decision “reinforces that American energy security will only come by producing oil, natural gas and renewable resources here at home.”
A leading oil trade group, Western States Petroleum Association, lamented the symbolism of Obama’s action. It said national energy decisions “should be based on science and facts. We cannot afford to play politics with our nation’s energy infrastructure, jobs and the economy.”
Another major trade group, California Independent Petroleum Association, declined to comment because, as President and CEO Rock Zierman said, the Keystone issue was “not really on our radar.”
But an executive at Taft-based TRC Operating Co. Inc., Charlie Comfort, clearly was monitoring the situation.
“We, TRC, are not surprised and had no hope that (Obama) would approve it,” Comfort wrote in an email.