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The real, and dirty, Obama scandal

By Van Jones, CNN Contributor
updated 2:28 PM EDT, Thu May 30, 2013
Environmentalists in New York protest the Keystone pipeline to coincide with a visit by President Obama on May 13.
Environmentalists in New York protest the Keystone pipeline to coincide with a visit by President Obama on May 13.
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Editor's note: Van Jones, a CNN contributor, is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, an online platform focusing on policy, economics and media. He was President Barack Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009. He is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy. Follow him on Twitter: @VanJones68.

(CNN) -- Last week, members of the House of Representatives turned their attention to the biggest Obama scandal yet.

No, I do not mean the IRS or Benghazi. Those are more partisan witch hunt than true scandal, a point backed up by recent CNN polling that shows independents and moderates trust the White House's take.

I also do not mean the investigations of The Associated Press or Fox News reporter James Rosen. Both are worrying cases of the national security state trumping freedom of the press, but neither appear to have made it to the president's desk.

Van Jones
Van Jones

And I hate to break it to the many fans of the hit TV show "Scandal," but that is not what I am referring to, either.

This is the real scandal: President Obama said in his second inaugural address that failing to act on climate change would "betray future generations." Now, many expect that he is ready to do exactly that by approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

Last week, the pro-Keystone House of Representatives voted to take the decision out of Obama's hands. It may be unnecessary.

In fact, Organizing for Action -- the Obama campaign organization that speaks for the president through his Facebook and Twitter accounts -- recently told activists that because the president has not taken a position on the pipeline, they should take their advocacy elsewhere.

Even more scandalous: The White House appears to be basing its decision on myths.

Keystone XL is not just another pipeline moving "oil." It would carry chemically treated tar sands. A few years ago this tar leaked into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Three years and $1 billion later, the Kalamazoo may never come back.

Tar sands is not traditional oil. It is a pipe-eating, planet-cooking, water-fouling goo that nobody knows how to get out of our water.

Keystone will not make us energy independent. The foreign company behind the pipeline, TransCanada, itself admits that the pipeline is key to getting tar sands to the world market. The company made no promises to sell any of that oil to the United States.

The Keystone XL pipeline will bring dirty fuel through America, not to America.

As for the jobs we were promised, the president's own State Department says Keystone will create only 35 permanent jobs.

If President Obama buys these myths, he should embrace this project publicly. He should call it the "Obama Tar Sands Pipeline." He should show up at the ribbon cutting. If he refuses to do that and still approves Keystone XL, the first thing that pipeline will run over is his credibility on climate.

Now, that is a scandal.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Van Jones.

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