Navigating a slippery slope
It's easy to understand the Obama administration's decision to put off a decision on whether to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline until after the mid-term elections. Deciding either way will produce fallout.
But that should not stop the administration from making a decision on the merits.
The pipeline is meant to carry oil derived from tar sands in Central Canada to refineries on the U.S. gulf coast. It has been rerouted due to concerns about sensitive aquifers in the upper plains of Nebraska, and has been under study for years.
Because the pipeline crosses the Canadian border, clearance is needed from the State Department. Its environmental analysis found that the pipeline would not "significantly exacerbate" carbon pollution, though some reliable environmental organizations disagree.
It's also a tough call for the administration because it has promoted energy independence, which pipeline supporters say it will foster, while advocating action against climate change. Pipeline opponents say it will create further greenhouse gas emissions while slowing the development of alternative fuels.
Meanwhile, the oil has been shipped by rail, which has proved to be dangerous.
Even if the administration approves the pipeline, the project could be stalled some time by litigation before the Nebraska Supreme Court.
But the administration still should make a ruling and then vigorously defend it. Another delay for political reasons is, well, slippery.