Saturday 4 February 2023
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The White House is fresh out of ideas for delaying the Keystone XL pipeline

Silhouette_manOp/Ed By Michael James Barton
Director for Energy, ARTIS Research


For months, the president has said he couldn’t move on the issue until the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled on a local legal challenge to the pipeline.

“I’m just going to gather up the facts,” he explained.

Strange, since a brilliant attorney such as the president should have immediately recognized the case had been an obvious delaying tactic with no hope of winning.

In an unsurprising development, the court threw out the case in January.

Within days, the House of Representatives and Senate passed bipartisan bills approving Keystone.

Given these developments, I believe President Obama should approve Keystone once and for all.

The only delay justified at this point would be divisive partisan politics, which is no justification at all.

Keystone XL, which would connect Canadian fields with American refineries in the Gulf, was first proposed back in 2009.

And, every argument raised against its construction since then has been thoroughly debunked.

Initially, opponents claimed it would increase carbon emissions.

Then, the state department looked into this issue, and found that Keystone’s construction would have, at most, a negligible impact on carbon emissions.

What’s more, researchers determined its construction could have positive environmental benefits as well.

Keystone would help expand U.S. natural gas production.

Gas releases about half the emissions of coal, and is its lower priced substitute.

So, the migration to gas which would be prompted by the pipeline could reduce overall domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, if the pipeline isn’t built, Canada’s energy companies will still develop and sell the oil, but they’ll have to ship it by rail, which releases far more carbon than a pipeline.

Anti-Keystone activists have also argued that the precipitous drop in the price of oil would render the pipeline unprofitable.

But, even with oil hovering at historic lows, Keystone still makes economic sense.

It is an odd argument from these activists, who opposed the project back when they saw it as being profitable.

And, it is possible these activists have skills of some sort we should pay attention to, but economic analysis clearly isn’t one of them.

Added bonus: Pipelines are vastly cheaper to maintain than railroads.

They cost about $8 less per barrel, and avoid the terrible derailments like the ones we’ve seen recently.

In addition, there’s good reason to believe that producers can make up for lower prices with higher sales volume.

Over the last three years, the Canadian tar sand’s daily energy production has jumped over half a million barrels, to 2 million.

And it looks like it will keep growing.

Alberta officials have predicted daily production could hit 4.4 million barrels within a decade.

And, unlike the pipeline’s imaginary harms, its economic benefits are very real.

Pipeline construction is expected to create over 40,000 jobs.

And those new jobs will, in turn, stimulate additional economic activity along Keystone’s route, with technicians, welders, and surveyors spending their paychecks at local retailers.

The American public certainly appreciates the case for the pipeline.

A recent Pew poll found that fully 59 percent favor construction.

The facts are in.

Keystone XL is safe.

It would avoid degrading the environment, while generating new, desperately needed jobs.

It’s time the White House gave its approval, and let pipeline builders get to work.

Let’s move.

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.