You have to hand it to U.S. President Barack Obama -- he knows how to profoundly say nothing much, which might explain why both the pro- and anti-Keystone pipeline lobbies found comfort in his words Tuesday.
For the anti-crowd, President Obama's use of the pejorative "tar sands" as opposed to the more neutral "oil sands" was a sign that he would stop the Keystone, which is to carry oil from Alberta to the U.S. for refining. For the pro-crowd, his comment that climate change "has got to be about more than building one pipeline" was seen as encouraging. And both sides took solace when he said that Keystone must not "significantly exacerbate carbon pollution" -- the anti-group claiming that it will and the pro-group saying that the U.S. State Department had already concluded that it would not.
In other words, after years of study, the debate remains fiercely polarized, and the issue is not settled. But, of course, it will be, likely by year's end. And if dispassionate reason is the basis on which that decision rests, then Keystone will go ahead -- the U.S. economy doesn't run on symbolic gestures. But U.S. presidents in search of "legacies" in their final terms of office sometimes do. The Harper government and Alberta's oil industry should prepare for either outcome. Canada's prosperity is at stake.