Gas Wonk: The Case Is Clear, Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline


The final verdict is in. The Keystone XL pipeline is a clear win for America.

In late January, the U.S. State Department released its long-awaited analysis on the environmental impact of the project, which would connect Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. Officials found that building the pipeline would have no impact on global temperatures.

The Obama administration has spent over five years dragging its feet on granting Keystone construction full approval, endlessly citing that it needs to be “studied” further. With this report, it has run out of excuses. There’s no reason for delay. The President should approve the pipeline with all due haste. Our economy needs it.

Keystone XL would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Texas, while also drawing from shale reserves along the way in Montana and North Dakota. It would initially transport 800,000 barrels of oil a day to the domestic market, driving down the price Americans pay at the pump.

And the pipeline will create an estimated 20,000 new jobs in the short-term — and up to 179,000 by 2035. These positions will be in a broad variety of fields, including construction, manufacturing, engineering, land surveillance, and occupational health.

Most of the pipeline materials will be made in the United States. And the flood of new economic activity will generate huge new tax revenues for local, state, and federal governments so badly needed in this struggling economy. Nebraska alone expects to reap nearly $2 billion in new tax income off the pipeline.

And Keystone has major benefits beyond the economic. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported last year that under President Obama, the United States increased its dependence on oil from the volatile Middle East to a nine-year high of more than 25 percent. Unsurprisingly, this coincided with an increase in gas prices.

By building up an autonomous North American energy supply, we could wean ourselves off energy from these dangerous and unpredictable regimes.

Despite the obvious economic and security benefits of Keystone XL, the president has taken a nonnegotiable stance in his continuing refusal to give the go-ahead. And it’s become perfectly clear this decision is rooted in hardline “green” ideology, not science.

Indeed, emails from the Environmental Protection Agency recently revealed “extensive collaboration” between the agency’s top officials and leaders in the green movement. In one, a regional EPA director explicitly synched air pollution messaging with a Sierra Club organizer, saying that “it would [be] great if you can send me an email describing what you would like to do… that way I can coordinate messaging with our air offices here and at HQ.”

This revelation is indicative of the way this administration has let ideology trump facts. It’s high time they reverse course.

The key critique of Keystone from environmental groups has always been that by increasing oil production the pipeline will raise domestic carbon emissions and exacerbate global climate change.

This is exactly the issue the State Department researched. And it found that if America doesn’t develop Canada’s shale reserves, someone else will — most likely China. The fuel under those formations is getting extracted and burned whether or not we participate.

Better to lock in a steady, stable supply of energy from a close ally than give it to an adversary like China. Aside from the obvious national security implications, American energy facilities are much cleaner than those in China. We’ve incorporated advanced green technologies that minimize pollution and contain carbon emission. Blocking Keystone would likely have the ironic effect of actually driving up the total emissions generated by Canadian shale oil. Given these facts, it is bizarre to that the green activists have chosen this project as their litmus test for the environment movement.

Keystone XL is the energy infrastructure our country needs to create new, high paying jobs and solidify our long-term energy security. The State Department’s new report is the final, ultimate rebuke to the environmentalist hysteria.

The endless delays in permitting Keystone XL mean that when a decision is finally made, it will have taken America longer to issue this permit than we took to win World War II. Americans used to build things – we should do so again. It’s time for President Obama to listen to the American public, put partisan politics aside and grant full approval to the pipeline.

Michael James Barton is the Director for Energy at ARTIS Research, and speaks around the country on energy and energy security matters. He previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon.

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