Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

What You Need to Know About Obama’s Speech in Cushing, Oklahoma

Jim Watson / Getty Images

President Barack Obama, spekaing about domestic energy production at a college in Maryland.

Tomorrow morning, a pipe yard in rural Oklahoma will become a platform for President Barack Obama’s domestic energy policy.

The event is part of Obama’s four-state energy tour, and the stop in Cushing — home to one of the largest crude oil storage facilities in the world — is as symbolic as it is significant.

Here’s why:

FreeWine / Flickr

Cushing, Okla.

Cushing is Important to American Energy Prices

Cushing is the self-proclaimed “Pipeline Crossroads of the World.”

Marketing hype aside, the small city provides temporary housing for one very important resident: oil.

Currently, there are more than 40 million barrels of oil there, reports The Oklahoman. And companies are building even more storage capacity in Cushing, upwards of 65 million barrels.

Futures traders can make money from stored oil, so industry analysts pay close attention to what goes on in Cushing and the price of its oil benchmark, the West Texas Intermediate.

Lately though, as KOSU reports, Cushing has been more hoarder than hub. And there are only a handful of pipelines carrying oil from Cushing to refineries in southern Texas.


This map shows the original route of the Keystone XL pipeline. Construction on the southern portion, from Oklahoma to Texas, has already started.

Pipelines are Political

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline will pass through Cushing, bringing crude from Canada to Port Arthur on the Texas Gulf Coast.

In January, the Obama administration rejected TransCanada’s permit for the northern part of the pipeline, which was saddled with routing issues in Nebraska.

The move was praised by environmentalists and anti-pipeline activists and assailed by energy companies, and Republican presidential candidates, here in Oklahoma and around the country.

Both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum made primary stops in big-energy Oklahoma to champion oil and natural gas drilling and decry federal regulation, which has become a dividing line between Obama and his Republican presidential rivals, both on domestic energy independence and job creation.

But some have questioned TransCanada and its supporters’ claims that the pipeline project would create 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs and more than 100,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

One study, from Cornell University, found that only 20 full-time jobs would be created by the pipeline project, and that 85-90 percent of those hired for temporary work would be non-local and hired from out of state.

But Obama has promised to expedite approval of the 500-mile OK-to-Texas segment, the construction of which is already underway at the pipe yard in Cushing, which Obama will use as a backdrop for Thursday’s speech.

Obama is Expected to ‘Fast-Track’ Pipeline Construction

TransCanada’s original Keystone KL permit required State Department approval because it crossed the international border with Canada.

And while the southern segment crosses no such boundary, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has to approve the OK-to-Texas segment because it passes through corps-regulated land and lakes.

Obama is expected to announce his plans to help “fast-track” this process on Thursday, an anonymous source tells CNN.

Brett Deering / Getty Images

Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon and Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennet chat during an Oklahoma City Thunder game.

The Energy Industry is Watching

In an editorial published in Wednesday’s Oklahoman, the chiefs of four Oklahoma energy giants praised private-sector drilling and hydraulic fracturing innovation and pushed Obama to approve the entire Keystone XL pipeline, not just the southern section.

“Now — not after the election,” they write. “America’s greatest benefit will come when we can transport oil from our best energy partner, Canada, and oil-rich North Dakota and Montana.”

The CEOs also attacked Obama’s position on corporate taxes and for wanting to end $4 billion in subsidies for oil and gas companies.

“… punitive tax increases such as eliminating the business deduction of drilling costs or selectively increasing the energy industry’s corporate tax rate by abolishing deductions available to other manufacturers would give us no option but to reduce our drilling programs, resulting in fewer jobs and higher prices.”

The Public Isn’t Invited

Thursday’s Cushing speech starts about 10 a.m., but it’s closed to the public. Gov. Mary Fallin and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb are out of the state, and Obama’s first presidential visit to Oklahoma also won’t be officially welcomed by state officials.

We’ll report what he said and provide full audio of the entire speech, but Oklahomans who want to see the president in person themselves should start looking for tickets to the Thunder vs. Clippers game in Oklahoma City, which Obama is expected to attend.

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  • Rl Forbes

    Since the public is not invited (only the media), this should be counted as a campaign only trip and paid for out of campaign funds. Opening it up the the local public would not count as campaigning – Cushing isn’t large enough.

    • JR

      The President can go wherever he wants, whenever he wants. I don’t remember anyone complaining about Bush going anywhere.

      • louielouie

        then let him go home. kenya.

  • Stan Rice

    I’m disappointed that it is not open to the public. I wonder if Oklahoma is considered dangerous?

    • JLC

      As a former Oklahoman (who remembers when it was overwhelming Democrat) and a former resident of Cushing (I grew up there) I was proud that he visited Cushing. But I am embarrassed by Oklahoma’s two senators. Inhoff refuses to believe anything will ever damage the environment.

  • recent Cushing resident.

    @RI Forbes,

    That makes no sense. If it were open to the public it might be considered campaigning. A media only address serves no campaign purpose. By the by, I don’t care what the rules technically are, just common sense.

    Also, 10,000 people isn’t big enough to be a campaign stop?

    I’m just disappointed I can’t go see.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anny-Seavey/100000150505092 Anny Seavey

    I am angry that it is not an open session, and deeply disapointed in Obama fot his change of heart on this issue I am tired of him trying to always comprimise and not stand on what is right for the earth How many Billions will the taxpayer pay when this pipeline breaks – and it will. As the study says it will not give us the insanely inflated predictions that the oil companys claim. Have they ever told the truth about anything ???
    Mr Obama please don’t do this I can understand a pipeline from OK to the gulf, but not the rest. Please get your lazy, do nothing Congressmen and Senate people off their duffs to help you fight this one.The only person you ever see fighting is Harry Reid, where are the other dolts ???

  • JR

    I’m very disappointed that our elected officials, Gov. Fallin and her Lt. Gov., are not extending Oklahoma hospitality to the President of the United States by being present at his speech. Not only are they missing the chance to talk to the President about issues important to Oklahomans (weren’t they elected to represent us?), but they are snubbing the Pres. based on bi-partisan pettiness. Shame on them! Working together starts at home.

    • louielouie

      it’s truely odd you criticize our elected officials for not attending, when the public is not allowed. who are you representing? maybe it’s not odd for you to be doing this at all. and it never occured to anyone that hussein’s people got out the gov’s schedule to fly in when she was gone. naaaaahhhhh

  • Observer2222

    Obama should renounce illuminati ties, apologize to the American public, and start telling the truth for a change. Do you really think he wants a thriving oil industry? He did this for the election, and because of gas prices. Public outcries have forced his hand. His election chances are getting shot to hell.
    He wants to change America to a more environmentally clean place. Great Idea, but the extreme nature in which he is doing it is damaging the economy. Raising electricity cost by strengthening the EPA to put insane standards which further drive our energy cost into the sky ,Obama stated that he would like to see gas prices rise to match Europe. France is around $10.00 per gal. So we can learn to conserve. Not the time to do that. We need real leadership . Attacking Libya without the order from congress, an impeachable offense. Signing a bill secretly on 3 /16/ 2012 that nationalizes all resources which means the federal government can seize property for national interest. Before it was only during times of emergency, now is amended to anytime the president deems it necessary. Wake up. You have intelligence, think for yourself. Look at all the new legislation that he wanted to pass. Research and think. Research his ideology.

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