The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Keystone XL at 7: Triumph of Politics Over National Interest

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted September 17, 2015

This Saturday marks a dubious anniversary: seven years since the first permit application was filed to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Seven years!

Given the typical process for a federal cross-border pipeline approval, Keystone XL should have started pumping oil from Canada and the U.S. Bakken region years ago. For purely political reasons, Keystone XL has languished with the Obama administration for seven years now – denying significant energy, economic and national security benefits to the United States.

The months and years come and go, and yet American public support for Keystone XL has remained a constant – underscoring the political nature of the White House’s mishandling of the project. A new poll of registered voters found 68 percent of Americans want the pipeline built – compared to 21 percent opposed. The result is similar to this poll last fall as well as polls in April 2014, December 2013, April 2013 and others. This is consensus. With the American people, Keystone XL is a settled issue.

Breaking down the new result, Keystone XL is supported across the political spectrum (Republicans 91 percent, Independents 62 percent, Democrats 52 percent), and across age groups and by men and women. Sixty-one percent of union households support building Keystone XL.


Cindy Schild, API downstream operations senior manager, refining and oil sands, discussed Keystone XL’s anniversary and the poll results during a conference call with reporters:

“By continuing this unprecedented delay to approve the KXL, President Obama continues to put politics above the interest of job creation and smart energy policy. Five State Department reviews have determined the project to be safe and environmentally sound, yet the administration has turned its back on our closest ally and trading partner in favor of a vocal minority who are advocating a ‘leave it in the ground’ approach to energy. It’s ironic that the U.S. would strike a deal to allow Iranian crude onto the global market while refusing to give our closest trading partner, Canada, the most efficient access to U.S. refineries. This foot dragging is an affront to American workers. It’s politics at its worst. And the American people agree.”

Schild said delaying Keystone XL means delaying 42,000 jobs and $2 billion in wages, according to State Department estimates, as well as 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada and the U.S. Bakken. Development of Canada’s oil sands will go on with or without Keystone XL, she said, noting that the project is just one of six proposals to bring oil sands to market.  Schild:

“It is an understatement to say that we are disappointed by the never-ending decision to delay. The bigger disappointment and loss is being felt today by our nation’s workers who have been awaiting these well-paying jobs, and American consumers who will instead continue to rely upon oil from less stable regions of the world.”

Other poll results:

  • 78 percent agree Keystone XL should be built because it would strengthen U.S. economic security by helping create jobs here at home while keeping energy dollars in North America.
  • 78 percent agree that building Keystone XL will help maintain a stable supply of oil from North America to U.S. refineries.
  • 76 percent agree that it’s in the United States’ best interest to approve Keystone XL, because it would increase supply from North America instead of other regions of the world.
  • 67 percent agree that approving Keystone XL will help the U.S. become more of an energy power in the world and help with U.S. foreign policy.
  • 66 percent of voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate who supports building Keystone XL.

These are slam-dunk numbers. But then, building Keystone XL has always been a no-brainer with the American public – making the White House’s position of delay and more delay all the more perplexing. Schild:

“It’s really unfortunate the missed opportunity here. … If you look at the facts, the merits, the five environmental assessments, you look at the benefits this would provide our nation and consumers, and you look at how swiftly they’re moving on opening up Iranian oil, it’s baffling. It’s baffling. It’s politics.”


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.