Carney distances Obama from looming Keystone pipeline decision

But environmentalists are increasingly placing their emphasis on Obama personally in seeking to pressure the administration on the project.

They’re even planning to form a human ring around the White House next month calling on him to scuttle TransCanada Corp.’s proposal, a demonstration that follows nonviolent civil disobedience near the White House over the summer that led to more than 1,200 arrests.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune warned last week that a decision in favor of the project would make it tougher to rally activists on Obama’s behalf in the 2012 election.

State hopes to make a decision by the end of the year, although Reuters, citing an unnamed administration official, reported last week that the deadline may slip.

Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute are lobbying in favor of the project, arguing it would create scores of jobs while improving energy security by expanding imports from a friendly neighbor. Canada is already the largest supplier of oil to the U.S.

TransCanada claims the pipeline would create 20,000 direct jobs and many more spinoff jobs and is emphasizing that it would operate under strict safety standards.

But environmental groups, which have called the jobs estimates inflated, oppose the pipeline due to greenhouse gas emissions, forest damage and other impacts from oil sands projects, as well as the potential for pipeline spills that could contaminate farmland and drinking water in states along the route.

Carney, while deflecting the Keystone question Monday, touted Obama’s environmental record.

“The president's commitment to addressing these issues has been demonstrated by the actions he took for historic fuel efficiency standards, an action which by itself will have dramatic effect on the amount of fuel consumed in this country,” he said, citing the mileage and emissions standards he said would have provide a “great reduction” in the amount of oil imported, as well as provide savings for consumers.

The administration, under Obama, completed joint Transportation Department-EPA mileage and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks covering model years 2012-2016, and is also preparing rules for model years 2017-2025.

The rules are estimated to save billions of barrels of oil over the life of the vehicles.