Last week’s votes on a new federal budget in the Senate underscored some deep divisions in Democratic ranks on energy policy. As I wrote last week, many red-state Democratic senators are nervous about the Obama administration’s refusal to approve the Keystone pipeline, which will transport oil from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. In 2012, eleven Democrats broke ranks with the White House to vote for pipeline approval.
This year, with every environmental impact statement presenting no objections to construction, the number of dissidents has grown. Last Friday, 62 Senators voted for Keystone, including every Republican and 17 Democrats. They include several facing bruising reelection battles in 2014, including Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mark Warner of Virginia. But other pipeline supporters were a bit more of a surprise, including Chris Coons of Delaware and Michael Bennet of Colorado, the chair of the Democratic Senate’s campaign arm.
Keystone is an example of the Obama administration’s being caught between its rhetoric about energy independence and job creation and the political reality of being in thrall to the anti-growth environmentalist Left. More and more Democratic senators want nothing to do with that political balancing act.