The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Consensus on the Keystone XL

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 4, 2011

Energy security and jobs: New polling shows Americans see a distinct connection between those worthwhile goals and a strengthened energy partnership with Canada. The question is, does Washington?

As the administration nears a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would add to that energy partnership by bringing more Canadian oil to U.S. refiners, the voices of regular Americans should be heard. In the din of the current public debate over the project, theirs probably haven't been heard enough.

Enter Harris Interactive, which interviewed 924 U.S. registered voters last week. Key results: As long as the United States is importing oil, 79 percent said they'd like to see more of it come from Canada. On a separate question, 80 percent agreed that U.S. policies should support the use of Canadian oil while allowing pipelines to bring the oil to America. API Executive Vice President Marty Durbin discussed the findings in a conference call with reporters:

"Strengthening our energy partnership with Canada will bring even greater economic and energy security benefits. About 1.5 million barrels of oil per day of today's imports come from Canada's oil sands region. That could increase to 4 million barrels per day by 2020 if Canada continues oil sands development and the U.S. has in place the pipelines necessary to bring it our refineries. By 2030, Canada could supply 5 million barrels of oil a day to the United States. ... As the government's own three-year analysis and environmental review of the Keystone XL project has confirmed, this pipeline would be a safe, practical way to bring more of Canada's oil to America."

Other Harris poll results:

  • Most Americans don't realize that Canada is our No. 1 source of imported oil, providing 21 percent of the 9 million barrels per day that are brought into this country.
  • 73 percent agree that pipelines probably are the safest way to move Canadian oil to the U.S.
  • 88 percent said they felt better about importing oil from Canada when told this was expected to create up to 500,000 new jobs for American workers in the U.S. by 2035.
  • 86 percent said they felt better about importing Canadian oil when told the Keystone XL would bring additional resources from Canada, a friendly ally and neighbor.
  • 89 percent said they felt better about importing Canadian oil when told that for every dollar the U.S. spends on Canadian oil, 90 cents is returned through purchases of U.S. goods and services.

There's a political adage in Washington that on the 80/20 issues, make sure you're on the side of the 80. These results from Harris suggest that when Americans know the stakes on the Keystone XL, it's one of those 80/20 issues. Durbin:

"In the past, and in comments earlier this week, President Obama has acknowledged the importance of importing more of Canada's oil to help meet our nation's energy needs. As our polling shows, this puts him on the same page as most Americans. We hope it also is an indication his administration will do what's best for our nation's economic and energy security by approving the Keystone XL project."


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.