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Special Report

Hume: Keystone XL Pipeline should be a no-brainer for Obama

Brandishing his pen and his phone, President Obama is vowing a year of action. Perhaps he should use the phone to tell Canada's government he won't allow the final phase of the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built. Canada has been waiting years for such a decision. Or maybe he could pick up his pen and sign his approval to let the project go ahead. Three legs of it are already operating, carrying oil from Canada's vast reserves of tar sands to refineries in the U.S.

Back in 2011, the State Department -- which has jurisdiction over such cross-border projects -- said the last leg would cause "no significant impacts" on the environment. But it held up a final decision because of worries about the pipeline crossing Nebraska's environmentally-sensitive Sandhills area. So the sponsors and the state of Nebraska came up with an alternative route around that region. Not good enough for Mr. Obama, who demanded further study. That was two years ago this month.

Whatever he decides, Canada will continue to develop its tar sands, and will ship the oil either by rail -- which poses many dangers -- or by a pipeline across its own territory to the Pacific, and then on to countries whose oil refiners are less environmentally fastidious than ours. Jobs and profits would thus flow away from the U.S., and any environmental harm would be exported, probably enlarged, certainly not stopped.

An easy decision, you might think. But the green lobby remains opposed, and that has been enough for Mr. Obama so far.