Obama Needs to Stop Playing Politics and Approve Keystone XL
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By Chris Faulkner
The White House is running out of reasons to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
This administration's very own State Department recently released its much-anticipated report on the potential environmental effects of the project, which would construct a 1,179-mile extension of the existing Keystone pipeline system connecting Canadian oil sands and U.S. oil shale deposits to American refineries on the Gulf Coast.
The State Department's findings are unequivocal: Keystone XL is perfectly safe. There's little evidence the pipeline would do damage to the aquifers, eco-systems, and animal populations resting along its planned pathway.
The Obama administration's well-worn excuse for delaying approval of the pipeline is that regulators need more evidence about its environmental effects. Well, here's the evidence. Case closed, right?
Wrong. The White House is still refusing to reverse course. And officials are now pushing for a broader directive to all federal environmental regulators to consider the global warming implications of any new energy project before approving them. That's a move guaranteed to further drag out the Keystone approval process.
By bringing the climate change bogeyman into national environmental policy, Obama opens the door to endless lawsuits by the green lobby. Thus, the White House can delay the project without overtly ordering a halt.
Enough with the delays. The White House has no good reasons for rejecting the pipeline any longer. Keystone XL should be approved without delay.
With national unemployment still stuck at 7.7 percent, American workers are desperate for all the jobs expected to be generated by the construction, operation, and maintenance of Keystone. A separate report from the State Department estimates that building the Keystone pipeline extension would directly create 42,000 jobs, including nearly 4,000 new positions in the construction industry, which has been especially hard hit by the recession.
That total doesn't include the countless other jobs the project would stimulate in support industries, like hospitality and food services. Keystone would be a jobs boom, creating steady, well-paid positions up and down the pipeline's pathway.
These clear economic gains are a big reason there's already broad bipartisan support for completing Keystone. Many top Democrats have explicitly urged the White House to give its approval, including Senators Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp, and House representatives Henry Cuellar, Charles Gonzalez, Al Green, Gene Green, Ruben Hinojosa, and Sheila Jackson Lee.
Several major labor unions have also expressed frustration with the White House's foot-dragging, including the AFL-CIO and the Laborers' International Union of North America.
Most importantly, there's a growing national consensus that Capitol Hill needs to be prioritizing job growth.
On the other side of the Keystone issue, of course, are radical, reactionary green groups. No amount of evidence will ever persuade them that their hysterical claims about the project's environmental impact are unfounded. With every new official report finding Keystone XL safe, their case grows weaker -- and their rhetoric more heated.
Indeed, in response to the new State Department report, a coalition of marquee green groups signed a joint missive to Secretary Kerry urging him to further delay any decision on Keystone. Among the august signatories were Greenpeace, Ralph Nader brainchild Public Citizen, and Friends of the Earth.
Green groups have even latched onto the recent news that an aging ExxonMobil pipeline carrying diluted bitumen from Canada's oil sands recently ruptured in Arkansas. They say this development is proof positive Keystone will wreak havoc on the environment. Never mind that the pipeline that cracked is over sixty years old and substantially less technologically sophisticated than the Keystone pipeline.
The real irony of the anti-Keystone crusaders' cause is that if they are actually successful at blocking American construction of the project, Canada will simply reroute the planned pipeline to the Pacific coast for export to China.
The oil underneath Canadian soil will be sold and refined for energy under any scenario -- the economic gains for our neighbors to the North are just too great. The only question is if the United States will economically benefit from those sales. And transporting this oil to China is actually much less environmentally friendly than sending it down a pipeline to the Gulf.
The case against Keystone XL has collapsed. The White House needs to approve this pipeline as soon as possible. Doing so would generate tens of thousands of desperately needed jobs right here in the United States, while also putting us on the pathway to long-term energy security.
Chris Faulkner is the CEO of Breitling Energy Companies.