Republicans and Big Oil thought they were so clever shoehorning a rushed 60-day approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline into the payroll tax cut extension last month. Calgary investment house FirstEnergy Capital disagrees:

In a research note to clients today, the Calgary-based investment house had some depressing commentary regarding the controversial pipeline, which would ship growing production from Alberta's bitumen belt and North Dakota's Bakken to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. In the note, FirstEnergy analyst Steven Paget wrote that the Republican gambit to force Obama's hand and make the 2012 presidential election a referendum on Keystone XL, "is nothing but negative for TransCanada as it makes the pipeline even more of a political issue, and it also means that the pipeline is still unlikely to receive approval until after the November 2012 election" [Darren Campbell, "FirstEnergy Gets Bearish about Keystone XL's Prospects," Alberta Oil, 2012.01.04].

The State Department has said that doing the new Keystone XL review right will take 15 months. The Obama Administration has signaled that forcing a decision in 60 days requires a rejection of the permit. Analyst Paget says Keystone XL backers should hope the President asserts his proper authority over foreign policy (remember, Keystone XL crosses international borders: since when does Congress tell the President how to make foreign policy?), ignores the 60-day mandate, and lets the review process come to a natural conclusion.

Backers of clean water and property rights should hope the President does his best judo: use the Republicans' chicanery to justify denying the Keystone XL permit. The President will wink at all the cheering greens, then hit the campaign trail to cudgel Mitt Romney and John Thune with the charge that Republicans killed all the jobs and energy independence they imagined Keystone XL would bring.

Bonus Keystone XL Irony: TransCanada, a Canadian company, has spent millions of dollars lobbying federal and state governments in the U.S. to promote Keystone XL. Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have lobbied Washington on behalf of Keystone XL. But PM Harper wants to somehow block foreign opponents of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project from voicing their concerns in Canada's formal regulatory process.

Read more! The Daily Yonder offers an excellent write-up of the different rules on taxes, environmental safety, and eminent domain the Keystone XL pipeline faces across the Plains states. Oklahoma landowner Sue Kelso said her state officials abandoned her in her fight to keep TransCanada from seizing her land through eminent domain (sound familiar, Mike and Sue Sibson?). But sometimes the squeaky wheel manages to avoid the oil: Sue Kelso made enough noise, suing TransCanada to stop their use of eminent domain, to persuade TransCanada to reroute Keystone XL off her property.