President Obama defended his oil policy yesterday, pledging to speed up approval of the southern leg of the controversial Keystone pipeline project. "Anyone who says that we're somehow suppressing domestic oil production isn't paying attention," he said, adding that boosting production in the US won't be enough to bring prices down. The southern leg of the pipeline will go from Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico, eliminating a bottleneck in crude oil production. Obama was heavily criticized earlier this year for rejecting plans for the Oklahoma to Canada part of the pipeline.
It's not clear whether Obama's streamlining of the permit process will do anything to speed up construction of the pipeline's southern leg and Republicans dismissed the move as a publicity stunt, Reuters notes. "He's taking credit for going forward on the only portion of the pipeline that he doesn't need to approve," North Dakota's Sen. John Hoeven said. "This is literally straddling both sides of the issue." Environmentalists, meanwhile, accusing Obama of taking a "dangerous wrong turn" by rushing the pipeline. (Read more TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline stories.)