OSFC OP-ED: Keystone XL means jobs and energy security for America (Illinois Business Journal)

Illinois Business Journal

Keystone XL means jobs and energy security for America

By Katie Brown

This article originally appeared in the Illinois Business Journal


With a stroke of his pen, President Obama today can approve the Keystone XL pipeline, creating tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs and significantly strengthening our energy security – it’s that simple.

Sadly, the pipeline is being held up by this administration thanks in large part to the checkbook of one billionaire anti-Keystone XL activist who has been using the pipeline as a symbol for his (extremely costly and impractical) anti-fossil fuel agenda, not to mention his own potential political aspirations.

With Canada being our largest supplier of imported oil, Americans already realize the benefits of Canadian oil sands.  As a report by IHS CERA notes, “Canadian oil sands have moved from the fringe to become a key pillar of global oil supply. This growth has made oil sands the single largest source of U.S. oil imports…” Another report by the International Energy Agency says North American oil production – particularly oil sands – is sending “shock waves” through global markets, slashing U.S. imports from OPEC. This dramatic increase in Canadian and domestic oil production could make North America 100 percent energy secure in transportation fuels in the next dozen years.

The United States is already making enormous strides towards energy security. The Keystone XL pipeline would provide a huge boost to that effort, allowing us to replace hundreds of thousands more barrels of oil imported daily from unfriendly and unstable regions with oil from Canada, our trusted neighbor and ally.  As Daniel Yergin, one of the world’s foremost energy experts, stated, “The big winner from not building Keystone is Venezuela, because their heavy oil has the same carbon footprint as the oil sands. (So) Venezuela or Canada, take your pick. Who is your favorite country and who is your neighbor?”

As former Obama National Security Advisor General Jim Jones rightly put it, if we want to “make Putin’s day” we should reject Keystone XL.  Another former Obama National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said that he “probably would” advise approval of Keystone XL to strengthen our national security.

In addition to the immense energy security benefits, there’s no question that Keystone XL would be a huge job creator. According to the Obama State Department, Keystone XL will support over 42,000 jobs and put $2 billion in workers’ pockets. No one understands that better than union and labor groups who have rallied across the country to tell President Obama to approve Keystone XL.  As the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) explained in a letter, “unemployed construction workers desperately need the work” and Keystone XL is a “lifeline” for thousands of members.

And what about the environment?  Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar perhaps put it best when he said Keystone XL a “win-win” for both the economy and the environment.  As the Obama State Department, numerous research organizations and even prominent climate scientists have found, Keystone XL will have a negligible environmental impact.  Remember, President Obama explained in a speech at Georgetown University a year ago that he would not approve the pipeline if it significantly exacerbated greenhouse gases emissions.  The State Department has now completed five environmental impact studies, each stating unequivocally that it won’t.  In fact, greenhouse gas emissions are more likely to increase without Keystone XL because the oil sands would then be shipped overseas to countries like China where environmental regulations are not as strict.

With all these benefits it’s easy to see why the American people – a majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents – overwhelmingly support Keystone XL.  It even enjoys wide bipartisan support in Congress, which seldom agrees on anything!

So what’s keeping President Obama from approving the project? Politics, pure and simple – and that includes the antics of Tom Steyer, a billionaire anti-Keystone XL activist who intends to pour $100 million into Democratic candidates’ elections this fall.

Of course, the American people see right through that.  A recent poll found that a majority of Americans believe the delay on Keystone XL is due to politics rather than “legitimate concerns” about the pipeline.  A Washington Post editorial explained it well, pointing out that “Environmentalists have drawn a line in the sand on the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s the wrong line in the wrong sand, far away from any realistic assessment of the merits — as yet another government analysis has confirmed. It’s past time for President Obama to set aside politics and resolve this bizarre distraction of an issue.” As New York Mag’s Jonathan Chait put it, “So, what public policy reason is there to block the pipeline? There really isn’t one.”

Now the question is: will President Obama continue to play politics and side with a billionaire activist (who wants to deny hard-working Americans tens of thousands of good-paying jobs that would sustain their families) or the overwhelming majority of the American people who need the jobs, energy security and lower energy prices the pipeline would bring?

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