By Joe Lanane
CUSHING, Okla. —
No matter their political sentiment, many Cushing residents eagerly anticipate President Barack Obama’s arrival Thursday.
But once the excitement of Cushing hosting its first sitting president wears off, residents wonder what Obama intends to do while visiting the self-proclaimed “Pipeline Crossroads of the World.”
The White House has announced the president will be in Cushing Thursday to discuss his “all-of-the-above” energy policy. Some Cushing residents are hopeful Obama will use the opportunity to announce that he will reverse an earlier decision and allow TransCanada to build the northern leg of its Keystone XL Pipeline. Work just started on XL’s southern leg that will take oil from Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas, and the Gulf Coast.
Obama has drawn sharp criticism for his position on the north part of the XL, though environmentalists have lauded his rejection of the plan. Thursday appears to some locals as an opportune time for Obama, who said he supports the southern leg, to get on board on the northern segment of the 36-inch pipeline from Canada.
“That sums up how everybody feels that I’ve heard,” said Debbie Moody, owner of Mila’s Quilt and Alteration Shop in downtown Cushing. “I think he stopped something from coming into town, and I hope he changes his mind.”
The south leg of the Keystone XL pipeline connecting Cushing to the Gulf is expected to give the local economy a boost through jobs, housing and tax dollars spent. Cushing resident Jason Kinzie contends that building the north leg of the pipeline would create even more jobs — not just in Cushing but across the nation.
“This is an oil-based economy. It always has been and always will be,” Kinzie said. “Fortunately, the economy (in Cushing) is really good right now. We’ve been blessed.”
Not everyone in Cushing is frustrated with Obama’s Keystone XL stand. Trudi Cooper and Judy Cane, employees at Homestead Family Restaurant, said most of their customers have had positive things to say about the president’s visit.
“I don’t know why everyone blames the president for oil, anyways,” Cane said. “Anything that will help the economy. I think that’s why he is coming — to come here and learn just what’s being done here in Cushing.”
Cooper, a manager at Homestead for 43 years, wondered if Obama might come to her restaurant while in Cushing. If not, she’ll go to him, Cooper said.
“I think it’d be so nice to go and see him,” she said.
Bristow native Dean Cearley doesn’t plan on taking off time at his Cushing job to go see Obama.
“Why would he come here? You could make the case that Oklahoma is the most conservative state in the country,” Cearley said. “It’s nothing more than a campaign stunt by trying to put a good slant on things by coming here.”
Until a new president is elected, Cearley said he does not anticipate the entire Keystone XL pipeline being built.
“Obama has ignored us up to now,” he said.