Kerry to face climate test at State Dept but not Keystone

Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:50pm EST
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By Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON Dec 21 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator John Kerry's commitment to tackling global warming will face several tests if he takes over as secretary of state but stopping an issue that has become a top environmental focus - the Keystone XL pipeline - will likely not be among them.

President Barack Obama nominated Kerry on Friday for Hillary Clinton's job and the senator is expected to win swift Senate confirmation.

Kerry has been a dedicated, long-time campaigner for action on climate change. In 1992 he attended the first Rio Summit on climate, which formed the framework of U.N. climate talks. In 2010, he and Senator Joe Lieberman authored a sweeping climate bill that ultimately failed.

Kerry's wife, Theresa Heinz, champions environmental causes as chair of The Heinz Family Philanthropies, and Kerry has lectured on national security risks posed by climate upheaval - from the impacts of rising seas on military bases to severe heat on soldiers.

The approval of the TransCanada Corp's Keystone pipeline could be one of the first items the State Department will officially tackle if Kerry becomes secretary of state but he is unlikely to influence the decision.

Analysts say President Barack Obama already appears to have made up his mind on Keystone.

"We think that Obama has set the course on Keystone and it is still poised for approval sometime next year," said Divya Reddy, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.

Unlike some senators, Kerry has not been outspoken against the pipeline, which will carry at least 700,000 barrels per day as it links Alberta's oil sands to refineries and ports in Texas. Environmentalists have battled the line because oil sands petroleum is more carbon intensive than average crudes refined in the United States.   Continued...