President Obama “is focused like a laser on putting people back to work,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) assured us last fall – echoing repeated statements by President Obama and Administration officials who “can’t wait” for Congress or others to take action and create jobs.
The jobs thing didn’t last long, however. The President soon vetoed TransCanada’s application for permits to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Approving them “would not be in the national interest,” he declared.
It is hard for most Americans to understand how it is contrary to the national interest to create 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs, increase US gross domestic product by an estimated $350 billion, and bring 830,000 barrels of oil per day via pipeline from friend and neighbor Canada to Texas refineries. It’s hard for us to grasp how pipelining Canadian oil is worse than importing oil in much riskier tankers from unstable, unfriendly places like Venezuela and the Middle East – or how it’s better for the global environment to transport Canadian oil by tanker to China, where it will be burned under far less rigorous pollution laws and controls.
It’s equally hard for average citizens to comprehend how more than three years of careful environmental studies are insufficient, especially after the State Department had issued several reports concluding that the pipeline would have only “limited adverse environmental impacts” in areas that are already dotted with oil wells and crisscrossed with oil and gas pipelines.
To suppose, as the President insisted, that Keystone would generate “a lot fewer jobs than would be created by extending the payroll tax cut and extending unemployment insurance” is simply baffling.
In view of White House intransigence, what should Congress and TransCanada do now?
The 1,660-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline would begin in southeastern Alberta, Canada and end in Port Arthur, Texas. Although it would incorporate the existing Keystone Cushing pipeline through Kansas and part of Oklahoma, most of the US portion (from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, and from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur) would be new. Keystone XL would create 20,000 jobs manufacturing and installing 36-inch pipe, valves and other components to build that addition.
Environmentalists predictably went ballistic. Surface mining Alberta’s oil sands damages lands and habitats, they ranted. Never mind that this technique is being replaced by in situ “steam-assisted gravity drain” processes, that mined lands are being restored to forest and grass habitats, or that blocking Keystone XL will neither end oil extraction nor prevent shipment to China.
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