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Keystone XL: The Litmus Test for Obama's Second Term

Keystone XL: The Litmus Test for Obama's Second Term

The Keystone XL pipeline is about to mark its fourth anniversary in bureaucratic limbo. Now that President Obama has secured a second term, the pipeline’s approval is largely viewed as a no-brainer. It should not be a foregone conclusion, if not for this president’s record of mismatched rhetoric and actions. When thousands of anti-Keystone XL pipeline demonstrators assemble in front of the White House on November 18, President Obama will have the opportunity to show the nation that he actually is a pro-energy, pro-jobs president. On the flip side, he can continue to side step this crucial pipeline project and keep thousands of new energy jobs on hold.

Actress Daryl Hannah was among the Keystone XL protesters last summer who were arrested in front of the White House (AP Photo)

In his re-election speech, President Obama reassured voters – whether they voted for him or not – that he has listened to them. If that were truly the case, then approval of the Keystone XL pipeline should not be a difficult decision for Obama. A survey commissioned earlier this year by the American Energy Alliance found that 79 percent of the Americans support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s easy to see why, considering that the pipeline would ensure stable oil supplies, tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, and strengthen trade with our closest ally, Canada. Many Americans would agree that these are all worthwhile goals, especially creating new jobs in the current economic atmosphere. Part of the reason unemployment has remained stubbornly high is because of the Administration’s regulatory barriers to job creation in the private sector. Keystone XL is a great example of this.

In the time that President Obama has delayed his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, Americans have spent more than $24 billion to purchase overseas oil. Meanwhile, upwards of 20,000 Americans that could have been put to work through its construction remain on the unemployment roster. In addition to work at construction sites, these jobs would also be at American refineries once oil is flowing through the pipeline. This employment boost could be realized by a simple swipe of the president’s pen, and would not require a helping hand from the American taxpayer.

Most Americans would also agree that we need to reduce our oil imports from hostile nations abroad. With the pipeline projected to deliver 700,000 barrels of oil each day to consumers, and presuming that the global price of crude trades at roughly $100 per barrel, construction of the Keystone pipeline could prevent Americans from sending $70 million every day overseas to purchase imports.

Because they cannot refute these facts, the demonstrators gathering in front of the White House this month will contend that the pipeline spells unequivocal environmental destruction. This argument prevails among the anti-Keystone movement despite the State Department’s confirmation that a new pipeline would have a limited environmental impact, much less so than transport by barge, truck, or railcar.

And then there’s the argument that the pipeline will increase greenhouse gas emissions. There is yet to be a valid argument in response to the fact that the pipeline – whether it’s built along the proposed route or not – will, in fact, be built. The oil it transports will be injected into the global supply – if not in the U.S., perhaps in energy-hungry China.

The president can pursue two paths in his second term. The first path is to find middle ground and pursue policies that are in line with his campaign pledge for an “all of the above” energy policy. If he’s genuinely committed to increased oil and gas production, how can he reject a much-needed infrastructure investment that’s necessary to transport these resources? The second path is to ignore our vast North American energy resources and placate the radical, environmentalist fringe with regulatory policies that promote energy poverty.

The choice is his.


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