President Obama tiptoed around the issue of oil production in Tuesday night's State of the Union speech, but one of his most loyal – and wealthy – California supporters wasn't as timid in his broadside: a tough television ad pushing Democrats to reject the long debated Keystone pipeline project.
"This is as good as time as ever to present our case," said Tom Steyer, a San Francisco investment manager whose political action committee bought cable airtime before and after the presidential speech to slam the Keystone project as bad for the nation.
"Politicians," says the ad's narrator. "They take Americans for suckers."
Steyer, a billionaire Democratic activist, says the ad points out the problems with a project whose ultimate fate remains unclear. The Obama administration may give its final verdict on whether to approve the 2,100 mile proposed pipeline from Canada to Texas. The President signaled some support for the Keystone project in 2013; Steyer says, though, he doesn't believe it passes the muster the President has set in previous comments.
"The real problem with this project," he said, "is it enables the development of literally tens of billions of barrels of extremely dirty oil. And that is just troubling. And it doesn't help America."
Steyer has become one of the leading environmental voices in Democratic politics. The billionaire activist has spent tens of millions of dollars both on his own for California issues and through his national political action committee, NextGen Climate Action. His high profile crusade landed him a speaking spot at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and the ongoing buzz among California Democrats that perhaps Steyer should run for office in the Golden State in the near future.
Of course, the TV ad's demand for a rejection of the Keystone project stands in contrast to Republican demands that it's the very kind of effort on which the President's hoped-for bipartisanship can actually thrive.
"Let's work together on building the Keystone pipeline and the tens of thousands of jobs that would be created as a result," said U.S. House Speaker John Boeher, R-Ohio, at an event on Tuesday.
And the PR effort begins even as a new USA TODAY poll shows 56 percent of those surveyed say the support the Keystone concept.
In his State of the Union speech, Obama talked about how oil and gas production were "booming" and again voiced support for the idea of "all of the above" approaches to energy independence.
As he visited Sacramento on Tuesday, Tom Steyer said he believed President Obama was a champion of environmental causes and will ultimately reject the long debated pipeline project.
"I think if he were to approve it," said Steyer, "I do honestly think that would be very inconsistent with everything else he's done."