Build the Keystone Pipeline, Already!

Published February 15, 2014

President Obama frequently says he wants to turn the economy around, put America back to work, produce more energy, improve public safety, and open new markets to goods stamped “Made in the USA.” If he truly believes this, he will end the delays and approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Of all the opportunities arrayed before him, the 1,179-mile Alberta-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) is the most “shovel-ready.” In fact, it awaits only a presidential phone call or signature to slash bureaucratic red tape, streamline the permitting process, and create construction and manufacturing jobs. Some 40,000 jobs, in fact—more than half as many as were created nationwide last December.

There are compelling reasons why the President should end this interminable six-years-and-counting dilatory KXL review process, right now.

State Department Report
On January 31, the U.S. State Department reaffirmed its previous conclusions KXL is unlikely to noticeably increase demand for Canadian oil sands or global emissions of carbon dioxide. It would even reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which State says would be 28-42% higher if Canada’s oil is shipped via train or truck instead of through the pipeline.

Job, Revenue Growth
KXL would create an estimated 20,000 construction jobs; another 10,000 in factories that make the steel, pipelines, valves, cement, and equipment needed to build the pipeline; thousands more in hotel, restaurant, and other support industries; and still more jobs in the Canadian, North Dakotan, and other oil fields whose output would be transported by the pipeline to refineries and petrochemical plants, where still more workers would be employed.

With Obama and his EPA waging war on communities and states that mine and use coal, these jobs are even more important to blue-collar workers in Middle America.

States along the pipeline route would receive $5 billion in new property tax revenues, and still more in workers’ income tax payments. Federal coffers would also realize hefty gains.

Transportation Safety Improvement
Right now most of the oil from Canada’s oil sands and North Dakota’s Bakken shale deposits moves by railroad and truck fuel tanks, often through populated areas. Truck and rail accidents have forced towns to evacuate and even killed 50 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

Pipelines have a much better safety record. KXL would be built with state-of-the-art pipe, valves, and other components, meeting the latest design, manufacturing, construction, and inspection specifications. It has been configured to avoid population centers, sensitive wildlife areas, and the Ogallala Aquifer.

Building Keystone will help ensure vast petroleum resources can be efficiently utilized to meet consumer needs. In conjunction with other pipelines, it will greatly reduce the need to flare (burn and waste) the natural gas that is a byproduct of oil production in Bakken shale country. The pipelines will also help get propane and natural gas to places that need these fuels.

Better U.S.-Canadian Relations
The endless dithering over KXL has frayed relations between Canada and the United States. It has compelled the Canadians to take decisive steps toward building alternative pipelines from the Alberta oil sands fields to Superior, Wisconsin and to Canada’s west coast, for shipment to Asia’s growing economies. Further delays will not reduce oil sands development—only the oil’s destination.

No Climate Change Impact
In his State of the Union speech, President Obama informed us “climate change is a fact.” Well, duh. It has been a fact since Earth was formed. The only pertinent issues are these: Are humans causing imminent, unprecedented climate change disasters? And can we control Earth’s climate by drastically curtailing hydrocarbon use in wealthy countries, slashing living standards, and switching to renewables?

No evidence supports either proposition. Moreover, oil sands production would add a miniscule 0.06 percent to  U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, a tiny fraction of even that amount to global carbon dioxide emissions, and an undetectable 0.00002 deg F (0.00001 C) per year to useless computer-model scenarios for global warming.

Instead of urging Obama and Congress to extend unemployment benefits even farther, activists should press them to stop stifling shovel-ready Keystone pipeline jobs.

Paul Driessen ([email protected]) is senior policy advisor for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power—Black Death. A longer version of this article first appeared in Reprinted with permission.