The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Private Infrastructure and POTUS

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted December 5, 2014

Speaking to business executives earlier this week, President Obama lamented how long it takes to make infrastructure improvements in the U.S.:

“The challenge for infrastructure has been that … it’s hard to pay for things if you don’t have some sort of revenue stream. And I’ve been exploring … to see how we can do more in attracting private investment into infrastructure construction – which is done fairly effectively in a lot of other countries …”

Later, he praised the Chinese for how quickly they tackle infrastructure needs:

“… the one thing I will say is that if they need to build some stuff, they can build it. And over time, that wears away our advantage competitively. It’s embarrassing – you drive down the roads, and you look at what they’re able to do.”

For more than six years one of the largest infrastructure projects to come along in some time has been staring back at President Obama, waiting for him to say “go”: the Keystone XL pipeline.

By now many Americans – who favor Keystone XL’s construction by more than a 3-to-1 margin – probably can tick off the points arguing for the project’s approval:

  • More than 42,000 jobs that would be created during Keystone XL’s construction phase, according to a U.S. State Department review, putting $2 billion in workers’ pockets.
  • $3.4 billion that would go to the U.S. economy, according to the same review.
  • 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada and the U.S. Bakken region.
  • Five separate environmental reviews by the State Department, all successfully cleared by the project. A separate study by IHS found that the pipeline and pipeline-related oil sands development would have “no material impact” on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The $5.4 billion project would be privately funded.

That last point speaks to one of the president’s concerns above. No need to find a revenue stream. Not a dime of taxpayer money is needed. There’s no need to enact legislation to attract private investment. Keystone XL’s investors are already onboard.

What’s left is the puzzling disconnect between President Obama and his oft-stated desire for shovel-ready infrastructure, and his six-year, non-decision on Keystone XL. That the pipeline would result in needed energy infrastructure, job creation, economic stimulus and greater energy security is clear, yet the president doesn’t see it – or refuses to see it. API President and CEO Jack Gerard, during a conference call with reporters:

“Earlier this week in remarks to business executives, President Obama stated that America’s inability to make infrastructure improvements is ‘embarrassing,’ and he spoke with envy of the ‘rapidity’ with which China builds infrastructure projects. Those are interesting words from a president who has delayed a major infrastructure improvement for six long years. The real embarrassment is that the Keystone XL pipeline has been under review longer than previous generations of Americans took to build infrastructure like the Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge and the Transcontinental Railroad.”

The Keystone XL is part of a scenario in which the U.S. could see 100 percent of its liquid fuel needs met by North American sources in about 10 years. “But we won’t get there through presidential dithering on infrastructure projects that are obviously in our national interest,” Gerard said. He added:

“When you talk about infrastructure build in the United States, we hear a lot about this, even from the president (that) these are the jobs we want. … We believe we ought to get back to the geological science here, put the political science aside. Let’s be leaders in the country, let’s take advantage of the American energy renaissance. Let’s approve the pipeline, which is clearly in the national interest, let’s move the process forward.”

Gerard said global demand for oil will only increase over the long term and that Keystone XL represents the kind of decision that needs to be made now for America’s energy future. He said the president’s avoidance of a Keystone XL decision is about to end:

“This is going to end up on the president’s desk one way or another. If he chooses to veto it, if he chooses to continue to make it an issue, he’s ultimately got to decide those politics. I think it infuriates the American people. I think it’s a sign we’re not serious about job creation. There’s a lot of contradiction and irony in the messages about getting the economy back on track, about how it’s embarrassing that we can’t produce these infrastructure jobs like China does. And yet we (delay) on these fundamental issues that should be simple. … Ultimately this will get done.”

Six years and five affirmative environmental assessments on Keystone XL from the president’s own State Department underscore a conclusion: Enough is enough. The Keystone XL pipeline is right for U.S. jobs, economic growth and energy security. By large margins the American people want to see more domestic energy produced, and they support building more energy infrastructure – including Keystone XL. Gerard:

“We are calling on President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. There is more than enough evidence to move forward immediately – without waiting for Congress to vote again in the new year when congressional support for Keystone XL will be even stronger. President Obama can end the delay today and give America’s construction workers a Christmas gift they’ve been waiting six years for.”


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.