Obama vows to speed up pipeline building

The political row over the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the US escalated yesterday, when presidential plaudits for part of the project served only to highlight how the White House has blocked full approval.

Stung by criticism that his failure to green light the full extent of the pipeline has contributed to rising fuel prices, Barack Obama promised to help speed up building of a link from the US oil trading hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, to refineries on the Gulf Coast. "I'm directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles and make this project a priority," he said at the TransCanada Stillwater pipe yard in Cushing.

It was not immediately clear if the president's words would actually help speed construction, however. This section of the project does not need White House approval and has not drawn the wrath of environmentalists, like the longer section stretching up into the Canadian oil sands region. The State Department has pushed back a decision on that longer stretch until after November's presidential election.