The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Punting on the Keystone XL

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 10, 2011

The administration's announcement that it will delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until early 2013 - after the 2012 presidential election - shows that politics trumps jobs for American workers as well as energy security for America. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:

"This decision is deeply disappointing and troubling. Whether it will help the president retain his job is unclear, but it will cost thousands of shovel-ready opportunities for American workers. There is no real issue about the environment that requires further investigation, as the president's own State Department has recently concluded after extensive project reviews that go back more than three years. This is about politics and keeping a radical constituency opposed to any and all oil and gas development in the president's camp in November 2012."

The Keystone XL decision was supposed to be based on the U.S. national interest, not U.S. politics.

Jobs? Clearly, building the Keystone XL would be in the national interest. The project promises 20,000 new jobs during its two-year construction phase, and the Canadian Energy Research Institute says the pipeline would be an integral part of a strategy to fully utilize Canada's oil sands, generating an additional 500,000 U.S. jobs by 2035. Terry O'Sullivan, general president of the Laborers' International Union of North America:

"Torpedoing the Keystone deal would be a direct attack on thousands of men and women who are desperate to be employed: Americans who have lost their jobs, their homes and their livelihoods."

Energy? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States is going to get more than 50 percent of its energy from oil and natural gas into the 2030s. The pipeline would bring upwards of 830,000 barrels of oil a day to U.S. refiners within a few years of its completion. Again, the Keystone XL is part of a pro-energy development strategy which, if executed, could see 100 percent of our liquid fuel needs supplied domestically and from Canada by 2026. National interest? You bet.

Environment? The State Department carefully conducted three separate environmental reviews on the project, none of which found risk significant enough to block it. The department also conducted multiple public hearings across the country, capping a process that hit three years in September. Questions have been asked and answered.

Let's be candid: This decision is more about oil from Canada than a pipeline. Asked about a rival pipeline project that also would connect Canada's oil sands region with U.S. refiners, one environmentalist said that project, too, would be opposed. "No tar-sands pipeline is acceptable in this day and age," said the Natural Resources Defense Council's Susan Casey-Lefkowitz.

In other words, the State Department can study alternative routes for the next year and a half, and the Keystone XL still will be opposed by those who don't like the energy resource it would bring. API's Gerard:

"This makes the U.S. less energy secure. ... We need the resource. The question is, do we get it from our friendly neighbor to the North or do we get it from other sources. ... This shows the White House is interested in politics and not sound energy policy."


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.