Michael Whatley

The election was more than a month ago and many in Washington and around the country are still scrambling to break out their divining rods and polish off their crystal balls. There are still many unanswered questions about the direction of President Obama’s next term, particularly how it will govern on energy policy. Will the President embrace the economic engine of energy production, or will he side with the climate change lobby and move to support a cap and trade program like the one California just put into place? Based on the campaign rhetoric of the last year, it’s hard to tell.

There is one thing that will provide a clear answer to these questions. His decision on the final fate of the Keystone XL pipeline will be the best indicator we have about the president’s plans for the energy sector over the next four years.

Already subjected to four years of government study and delay, the Keystone XL pipeline was just reviewed by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ), who held a final public comment meeting on the study this week. The pipeline project will now undergo an additional environmental review by the State Department. This new review should be completed sometime later this year. After that, it’s all up to the President.

Mr. Obama knows the benefits the pipeline, its jobs, and its energy will bring to the U.S. economy. He knows that according to the State Department’s first environmental review the pipeline would “have a degree of safety over any other typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current code.” He knows that since the Nebraska reroute, and the second review by NDEQ, it’s only gotten safer.

The President knows the pipeline will deliver an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries, and with the completion of the pipeline, our imports from Canada could reach four million barrels a day by 2020. He knows this will help reduce our dependence on Persian Gulf nations for our energy supply. He also knows the project could create another 500,000 jobs by 2035, according to a 2011 study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI).

Most importantly, President Obama knows that 60 percent of Democrats support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. He knows that all Americans say they support the pipeline by nearly a 2-1 margin regardless of party affiliation and that more than 90 percent say that energy issues are “very important.”

As the president has said following the election, “the American people voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.” If the president truly believes this, he will work to quickly approve the Keystone XL pipeline and embrace the hundreds of thousands of jobs it will create in the coming years. He should focus on an energy strategy that a majority of Americans – Republicans and Democrats – already agree on, not one opposed by a small but vocal minority.

The Keystone XL pipeline would go a long way in proving that the Obama administration is truly interested in an “all of the above” energy policy that will create jobs and make us more secure. And the president’s decision will be the best clue yet as to how his administration will approach energy issues over the next four years.


Michael Whatley

Michael Whatley is Executive Vice President of the Consumer Energy Alliance.