Republicans don't like President Barack Obama's long delay in making a decision about the Keystone XL pipeline. I don't like it, either: I wish he'd just tell TransCanada to shove their pipeline up their own backcountry.

But could the President's delay be clever cowardice?

Every day the President leaves the Keystone XL case open is another day that some other political entity may do his job for him and block the pipeline. Just a couple weeks ago, a Nebraska District Court judge ruled unconstitutional a Nebraska law allowing the Governor and TransCanada to use eminent domain for Keystone XL, effectively blocking the pipeline unless a higher court or the Nebraska Legislature takes action. This morning, Peter Marriman reports that TransCanada's authorization to build Keystone XL in South Dakota runs out in June. If the President and Nebraska don't clear the way for Keystone XL by June, TransCanada would have seek approval from our Public Utilities Commission all over again. If that happens, PUC Commissioner Gary Hanson promises due diligence and predicts "protracted" hearings.

By delaying the federal green light, President Obama gives anti-pipeline activists more time and more targets. U.S. Senate candidate David Domina can fight in the Nebraska courts. Lakota tribes, ranchers, and the Sierra Club can lobby the South Dakota PUC and DENR. And if those opponents manage to succeed in any state, the President doesn't have to take the heat for stopping Keystone XL.

The President's Keystone delay also serves the interest of long-term conservation. I look at our oil supply the same way I look at our coal supply. Back in 2009, while discussing clean energy legislation, I argued that we should conserve coal so future generations will have more coal available:

I like to believe in technological progress. I like to believe that if we just keep thinking and tinkering, someone will come up with fusion in a jar or anti-matter engines that will light cities and launch spaceships on a few drops of water.

But suppose we don't. Suppose we can't overcome the limitations of earthly materials and energy inputs to make fusion or other alternatives affordable and scalable by 2143. Our descendants look up from the flickering screens on their computers and see that last pile of coal being shoveled into Big Stone XVI. What do they do... besides curse us? "Dang it!" they'll grumble over candlelit dinners. "We were getting close on fusion. If we just had 20 more years of coal, we could have completed that work and built some reactors. Now we've got to spend all day digging for peat. But our ancestors in 2009 couldn't sacrifice a little bit of GDP to help us out. They just had to have their plasma screen TVs and leave their computers plugged in while they slept" [Cory Allen Heidelberger, "Vote for the Future: Cap Carbon, Cut Coal, Conserve for Great-Great-Great Grandkids," Madville Times, 2009.08.13].

We can make the same argument for the tar sands oil Keystone XL will ship. Just as every passing day gives the Nebraska courts or the SDPUC a chance to raise a legal roadblock to Keystone XL, each passing day also gives inventors and dreamers a chance to come up with that jar fusion or water-drop alchemizer or natural-gas car to render Keystone XL financially uncompetitive, if not technologically unnecessary. And if we don't develop better alternatives, taking longer to build Keystone XL still enforces restraint in our energy consumption, giving our descendants more time (hey, every year helps!) to fall back on fossil fuels.

I can't fully defend President Obama from the charges my columnizing (though rarely calumnifying) colleague Ken Blanchard would level, that the President's Keystone XL delay is cowardly do-nothingness. I also can't defend conservation as an absolute principle: conservation in the extreme would mean using zero energy, and the engine of progress doesn't run on empty.

But I don't share Blanchard's economic fatalism. If Keystone XL can be stopped, President Obama's delay maximizes the opportunity for states, activists, technology, and even the market to stop it. He also cleverly keeps TransCanada on the hook: had the President nixed Keystone XL back in 2011, the oil interests would have turned immediately to alternative pipeline routes. As it is, we wait, and waiting on shipping all the tar sands to China to burn is fine with me.

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Following the reëlection of President Barack Hussein Obama, various captains of industry vented their grief by asserting that they would not be able to do as much business as they would have if that man of their own stripe, Mitt Romney, had won 334,000 more votes. For instance, Bruce King, CEO of Trail King in Mitchell sour-grapesily moaned that he would have hired 150 more people if Romney had won.

More than two years later, Yakley finally throws out his sour grapes and admits that he's hiring every good worker he can find. The problem is that that darned Obama economy is expanding faster than he can recruit:

Trail King President Bruce Yakley has seen his company consistently struggle to fill skilled positions, such as welders, needed to keep up with demand for its products. Yakley, who started at Trail King in March 2011, said he knew within two months that workforce was going to be an issue.

"The experience has been frustrating, to say the least," Yakley said in an interview this week with The Daily Republic.

The trailer manufacturer, with locations in Mitchell and West Fargo, N.D., cut nearly two-thirds of its workforce during the recession. When the company looked to expand in a burgeoning economy in 2012, the workers weren't available.

"We lost a lot of business because we couldn't ramp up fast enough," Yakley said.

The company's Mitchell plant currently employs approximately 550 people, up at least 30 employees from last year, according to Yakley.

Trail King is still looking to expand, but to meet its goals the company will have to hire as many as 200 skilled laborers in the next five years, Yakley said.

"We are definitely still in need of workers" [Chris Mueller, "Help Wanted in Mitchell," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.02.21].

The relative dearth of young workers compared to baby-boomer retirements and the challenge of convincing people to move to Mitchell are putting Trail King in a hiring bind, not the victory of President Obama. Contrary to the theme of Romney's Republican-capitalist campaign, Yakley continues to call for more government help for his fortunes:

A long-term solution to the state's workforce shortage won't come from just one source -- it will require cooperation from local communities and state government, Yakley said.

"We need to work as a region on this problem," he said [Mueller, 2014.02.21].

Yes, Yakley and the rest of us all hate government until we want something from it.

By the way, Obamanomics have unemployment declining, the stock market surging, growth projections rising, and things look a lot better for Yakley and friends now than they did at the end of the Bush Administration:

Obama Economy 2014

Pesky facts, indeed.

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Lowe has shown his fearless embrace of the Democratic brand with photos showing him speaking with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Now Lowe's counterpart in the House race, Corinna Robinson, tacks that way, too, celebrating Presidents' Day with a Facebook post of herself with then-Senator Barack Obama in Iraq:

Corinna Robinson, Facebook screen cap, 2014.02.17

Corinna Robinson, Facebook screen cap, 2014.02.17

Corinna in uniform, shaking hands with her future Commander-in-Chief. If South Dakota Republicans plan to campaign against Barack Obama this fall, Robinson appears to be signaling she's ready for that fight.

Let's see, now where are those pictures from Team Noem of our current Congresswoman shaking hands with John Boehner?

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Calculated Risk offers two instructive charts on private-sector and public-sector job growth under the last five presidents. First, the private sector:
Private sector job growth Reagan to Obama Nov 2013
So far, the economy has created more private-sector jobs under President Barack Obama (dark blue line) than it did under either President George H. W. Bush (purple line) or President George W. Bush (red line). The Obama economy has managed this feat despite starting with a much sharper recession than either Bush faced.

Now the public sector:
Public sector job growth Reagan to Obama Nov 2013
Smooth out the Census spike, and the Obama economy has followed a downward trend in public-sector employment that is found in no other recent presidency besides the first part of the Reagan years, which coincided with a recession. The Bushes, faced with recession, managed to maintain growth in government employment.

Once again, economic data prove that those of you complaining about big government are viewing the charts upside down. Under President Barack Obama, government has gotten smaller.

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Lowe reports an enjoyable Saturday evening with a few dozen enthusiastic Democrats in Sioux Falls. Speeches were made, huzzahs were huzzahed, and checks were written. Yum!

Pictures like these may inspire even more Democrats to write some checks:

Joe Lowe talks fire prevention with then-Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2008

Joe Lowe talks fire prevention with then-Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2008

Joe Lowe talks Native American policy with then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama in Rapid City in 2008.

Joe Lowe talks Native American policy with then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama in Rapid City in 2008.

Lowe says candidate Obama gave him 15 minutes on that fine spring afternoon in Rapid City to talk about Native American issues. Lowe obviously isn't afraid to grill the famous and powerful on important South Dakota issues. He's also clearly not afraid to stand next to top Democrats.

Cue the Republican attack machine in four... three... two....

Preditcable Update 2013.12.10 08:22 CST: Dakota War College goes ape over these photos... and borrows the entire Obama photo and my text without seeking permission... the sort of action DWC has previously labeled plagiarism.

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Governor Dennis Daugaard has been backing away, kinda sorta, from the misguided and scandal-riddled EB-5 investment program. So, apparently, is President Barack Obama:

Nathan Nicholas, a policy advisor in the governor’s office in Wyoming, said the state has looked at EB-5 money as a way of bringing investment into the state, but there isn’t much movement in the area right now.

...Nicholas said he recently spoke to an Obama administration official about foreign direct investment, asking about EB-5.

“He said the program is broken at a national level and that it hasn’t been successful,” Nicholas said. “He told me it would be a mistake for the state to partner with an EB-5 regional center. That resonated quite a bit” [Kay Kguyen, "SD Regional Center's Contract Unique," Aberdeen American News, 2013.11.24].

South Dakota ran its own EB-5 regional center for years, then let its EB-5 director take the operation private and make bigger personal profit off each visa deal. That arrangement was as broken its biggest investment project, the bankrupt Northern Beef Packers plant. It's too bad President Obama, Governor Daugaard, and the man who got the mess rolling in South Dakota, Governor Marion Michael Rounds, didn't realize EB-5 was a mistake sooner.

comment!

This could be complicated.

Rick Weiland sent out a press release Monday "hammering" (that's Team Weiland's word) the Obama Administration for considering a "stupid" (that's also Team Weiland's word) reduction in the ethanol mandate. Weiland included a copy of the EPA draft memo leaked last month that suggests cutting the amount of ethanol required in motor fuel blends in the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards.

The biofuels industry is in full propaganda response mode. Weiland sounds rather fired up himself:

"If you ever thought big money special interests control only the Republican Party," Weiland said, "this is the proof that you are wrong.  Big oil has been trying to gut the renewable fuels industry for years.  They have poured millions of the dollars they steal from us at the pump into high priced lobbying and huge political contributions.  Now, it appears the EPA will soon cave into pressure from oil companies and propose a cut in ethanol use next year of around 1.4 billion gallons.  They will pretend it's needed to give oil companies more time to adjust to higher ethanol blends like E15, but that's hogwash.  This is Big Oil’s payoff," Weiland charged [Rick Weiland, press release, 2013.11.11].

There's no doubt that Big Oil would like to see the government stop favoring a competing product. But Big Oil, like Tea Partiers and a broken clock, can be right a couple times a day. Right on top of Weiland's call for keeping ethanol in our gas tanks, this detailed AP report says President Obama's ethanol push has done enormous harm to the prairie:

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama's watch.

Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.

Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive.

The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact [Dina Cappiello and Matt Apuzzo, "The Secret, Dirty Cost of Obama's Green Push," Associated Press, 2013.11.12].

So you have the liberal media saying President Obama sold out prairie and wetlands to the ethanol lobby. You have Rick Weiland saying that, in backing away from ethanol, President Obama would be selling out to Big Oil. Partisans, call me when you sort out your loyalties there.

Weiland is clearly placing his chips with South Dakota's ethanol backers. I'm curious: will any other Senate candidates oppose him and make the case that ethanol is bad for the land that we've turned into a fuel factory? Or will Weiland's declaration on ethanol be a moot point in a Senate race where everyone seeks distance from a President who may be changing his mind?

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Barack Obama to the rescue! Governor Dennis Daugaard is pleased to report that our caring and hard-working President has with great alacrity declared western South Dakota a disaster area due to last month's early blizzard. Governor Daugaard says President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are models of efficiency from whom Congress could learn a thing or two:

Local and FEMA officials worked quickly with our Office of Emergency Management staff to provide me the information to request federal assistance.... The presidential declaration came equally quickly, and it will help our impacted communities recover from this devastating blizzard as rapidly as possible. While the disaster unemployment program will provide some help for our producers, what they really need is for Congress to work with the same urgency our state did and pass a new Farm Bill [Governor Dennis Daugaard, press release, 2013.11.08].

Kristi, John, Tim—Dennis is talking about you! Get to work! Acknowledge the practical reality that the urban majority won't give a darn about subsidizing farmers without offering their constituencies food security, support food stamps for consumers right alongside crop insurance and other assistance for producers, and get the job done before winter really sets in.

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