The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Five Years Later the Case for Keystone XL is Stronger Than Ever

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted September 16, 2013

Let’s see: Five years is 1,825 days, which is a pretty long time. Long enough to build the Hoover Dam, and long enough for Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It’s long enough for Lewis & Clark to explore the American West and for the U.S. and its allies to win World War II.

But it’s not long enough for the Obama administration to approve construction of the full Keystone XL pipeline – and in the process side with 82 percent of Americans who want it built and clear the way for thousands of new U.S. jobs and greater U.S. energy security. Not long enough.

This week marks a dubious anniversary, the one traditionally marked by a gift made out of wood (check out our graphic below): five years since Keystone XL builder TransCanada asked Washington to approve a cross-border permit so that a pipeline could be built to bring upwards of 830,000 barrels of oil a day from the United States Bakken and Canadian oil sands region to U.S. refiners on the Gulf Coast.


TransCanada had every reason to believe the approval process would take no longer than one and a half to two years – because that’s how long the approval process has taken in the past, because other pipelines already bring oil sands across the border into the U.S. and because it would mean job creation, economic stimulus and a stronger energy partnership with neighbor and ally Canada. Jobs, economic growth and energy security add up to a “no brainer,” in the words of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The majority of Americans has agreed, in poll after poll.

Yet, on the fifth anniversary of TransCanada’s application, the Keystone XL remains on hold, a giant shovel-ready, job-creating infrastructure project waylaid by politics – politics that has bogged down rational evaluation of the pipeline’s environmental impacts, energy and economic benefits and whether it meets the larger test of being in the U.S. national interest, which it surely does.

The main reasons the Keystone XL is in the broad U.S. national interest:

  • Jobs – The State Department’s most recent analysis estimates more than 42,000 average annual jobs could be created over a one- or two-year construction period, generating billions in employment earnings and direct spending on construction and materials.

  • Environment – The same State Department analysis said there would be “no substantive change in global (greenhouse gas) emissions” from oil sands development associated with the pipeline, the fourth review by State reaching basically the same conclusion. A recent IHS study also found that the pipeline would have “no material impact” on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Energy Security – Canada is our top source for imported oil. Building the Keystone XL would strengthen our energy partnership with Canada and could, as studies have said, allow the United States to see 100 percent of its liquid fuel needs met from North American sources by 2024.

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer:

“We’re participating with the United States on a lot of issues for cleaner air, cleaner water, but we also believe that along with cleaner air and cleaner water and climate change we can have energy independence in North America, and we see Keystone as part of that long-term vision.”

Gen. James Jones, President Obama’s former national security advisor:

“Any nation that fails to secure the energy its citizens need leaves itself vulnerable to the whims of those who may not share their national interests. … A nation begins to decline once it ceases to be able to make the decisions it must make, and it knows it must make, in order to support its own national interests and integrity. … If we fail to grasp the enormous opportunity presented by the Keystone XL pipeline, we will miss out on a chance to improve the energy security of the North American alliance.”

These arguments, these facts, remain unchanged, undiminished by the passage of 1,825 days. The Keystone XL pipeline would put Americans to work, strengthen our economy and deepen our most important energy relationship, the one with Canada - in the process making our country more energy secure and more secure in the world today. The Keystone XL should have been approved years and years ago. It should be approved without further delay.


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.