President Barack Obama told a group of Democratic donors, including an opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, that his administration needs to do more to sell its second-term agenda on climate-change legislation.
The top challenge is to convince the public that measures to contain climate change can be pursued without harming the economic welfare of low- and middle-income Americans, Obama said yesterday at a $5,000 per-person fundraiser in San Francisco.
“This notion that there’s a contradiction between our economy and our environment is a false choice,” the president said. The main task, he said, is showing middle-income families that he’s “working just as hard for them as we are for our environmental agenda.”
Obama spoke at the Pacific Heights home of Thomas Steyer, the founder of Farallon Capital Management LLC and a Keystone opponent, as his administration considers whether to approve the $5.3 billion cross-border pipeline proposed by TransCanada (TRP) Corp.
The project, under State Department review, would carry heavy crude from Canadian tar-sands fields to U.S. refineries near the Gulf of Mexico. Last year, Obama denied a permit for the line, citing concerns tied to Nebraska’s drinking water, and Calgary-based TransCanada resubmitted its plan with a new route.
While the president made no reference to Keystone in his public remarks at Steyer’s home, the project shadowed Obama’s stay in San Francisco. On its way to his second event yesterday, a dinner at the home of Ann and Gordon Getty at a cost $32,400 per seat, the presidential motorcade passed a group of environmental activists protesting Keystone.
The events were among four California fundraisers on the president’s schedule over two days as Obama tests his ability to replenish Democratic campaign accounts without the threat of his defeat to motivate donors.
Today, Obama is scheduled to raise money for the Democratic National Committee, which had $21.9 million in debt at the end of February, with a $32,400-per-person brunch at the Atherton home of Liz Simmons and Mark Heising, the founder and managing director of Medley Partners, according to a person familiar with the matter. His final event, also in Atherton, south of San Francisco, is at the residence of Levi Strauss heir John Goldman. Tickets there range in price from $1,000 to $20,000.
Obama is expected to raise $1.8 million at the two DNC events, and has committed to a total of six fundraising trips before June 30, said the person, who asked not to be identified in discussing the plans.
“We’ve got more work to do in terms of dealing with climate change and making sure we’ve got an economy that is energy efficient, that is productive, that is cutting edge,” the president said at Steyer’s home. “The politics are tough.”
Environmentalists view the Keystone decision as a test of Obama’s sincerity about making climate change a priority in his second term after failing to advance legislation to cap carbon dioxide emissions in his first.
A draft State Department analysis of Keystone, released last month, said the project posed no significant risks to the environment, though it made no recommendation as to whether the pipeline should be built.
Environmental groups have said the State Department study underplayed Keystone’s potential effect on greenhouse-gas emissions. Environmentalists oppose the project in part because extracting oil from tar sands releases more carbon dioxide than most forms of conventional drilling.
The initial State Department analysis said the tar sands in Alberta would be developed with or without Keystone, so the pipeline’s effect on total emissions would be negligible. Supporters of the project view that conclusion as an indication Obama will eventually give his approval.
The State Department, which has authority over Keystone because it crosses the U.S.-Canadian border, is expected to make a recommendation to Obama by September.
U.S. crude-oil output in the fourth quarter this year will exceed imports for the first time since 1995, as booming fields in North Dakota and Texas put the nation on track to surpass a record set a quarter-century ago, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said last month. Meanwhile, domestic natural-gas output is forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance to increase 25 percent by 2020.
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