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Keystone XL – Let’s Get It Done

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 6, 2014

Over the past few years it has been difficult to know President Obama’s true position on the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, now under federal review more than six years. That’s likely to change in the new Congress, with Republicans saying Keystone XL legislation will be a top priority soon after the first of the year. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven talked to Fuel Fix.com:

“The president opposes the project and has tried to defeat it with delay,” Hoeven said, but “given the clear vote from the American public and strong bipartisan support, he may decide it’s time to start working with Congress, and this is a good example of a place to start and why you’ll see us advance the measure early on.”

Given the mid-term election results, President Obama soon will be called to make a decision on Keystone XL – one that will indicate his willingness to work with the new Congress on an issue that has strong public support and one that also will show whether he’s serious about an all-of-the-above approach to energy and American energy security. API President and CEO Jack Gerard, on Bloomberg TV:

“Frankly, it’s low-hanging fruit. It’s something that Democrats and Republicans could come together on very quickly and show the American public we’re serious about energy security, we’re serious about job creation and bring our economy back on track.”

Previously, the president avoided a Keystone XL decision by saying the federal cross-border permit process had to run its course. That it has, producing five separate environmental reviews, all successfully cleared by the pipeline project. Unfortunately, Keystone XL long ago became politicized, the symbol for an anti-oil sands, anti-progress agenda that apparently carried more weight with the president than economic growth, greater energy security and the will of the American people – 72 percent of whom recently said they support building the Keystone XL.

Now the political landscape has shifted. Keystone XL looks destined for the president’s desk.

Approving the Keystone XL always fit the president’s rhetorical calls for job creation and shovel-ready infrastructure projects that would lift the economy. It still fit this week, as he talked about the mid-terms and the future. The president (emphasis below added):

“I'm committed to making sure that I measure ideas not by whether they are from Democrats or Republicans, but whether they work for the American people.”

The president:

“The point is it’s time for us to take care of business.  There are things this country has to do that can’t wait another two years or another four years.” 

The president:

“I’m the guy who’s elected by everybody, not just from a particular state or a particular district.  And they want me to push hard to close some of these divisions, break through some of the gridlock, and get stuff done.”

The president:

“… let’s get started on those things where we agree.  Even if we don’t agree 100 percent, let’s get started on those things where we agree 70, 80, 90 percent. And if we can do that, and build up some trust and improve how processes work in Washington, then I think that’s going to give the American people a little bit more confidence that, in fact, their government is looking after them.”

Keystone XL, Mr. President.

According to the U.S. State Department, building Keystone XL could create more than 42,000 jobs and contribute $3.4 billion to the U.S. economy – while having no material impact on greenhouse gas emissions, according to an IHS study, which is in addition to the State Department studies that reached a similar conclusion. Keystone XL passes the emissions test and clearly would advance the national interest in terms of American energy security.

Still, at points in his post-election remarks this week, the president sounded like he did in 2011 and 2012 and 2013 and this year – talking about an ongoing “independent process” that’s “moving forward” and his desire to “gather up the facts.” He said he considers Keystone XL just “one small aspect” of the U.S. energy picture.

Unfortunately, this is just more of the same from the president. The time for processes and fact-gathering passed long ago, and Keystone XL is no small thing. Rather, it promises new U.S. jobs, economic growth and a strengthening of America’s security in an uncertain world. It’s time for the president to show serious leadership and approve the pipeline. Gerard to Bloomberg:

“This should never have been an issue. This could have been looked at and decided in six short months. Unfortunately, the president has made it an issue, and I’m hopeful now he’s going to step back and realize the error of his ways and say – you know what, this should happen quickly, we can make it happen.”

With their votes this week, the American people signaled they want action, and public opinion polling shows they see energy as a uniting point for action by Washington. There’s no better place to start than the Keystone XL. Gerard:

“If you look at the Senate, even today there’s well over 60 votes for the Keystone XL pipeline. … If the president continues to obstruct and to resist this Keystone pipeline, it shows his agenda is inconsistent with the American public, because over 72 percent of the American people – Democrats and Republicans – say approve the Keystone pipeline, let’s get on with this.”

Keystone XL, Mr. President. Let’s get on with it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.