The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 5, 2014

Approve Keystone pipeline

Why it matters: The United States can continue progress on energy independence by approving a significant energy supply in the Keystone pipeline from Canada


The Mankato Free Press

---- — Now that the U.S. State Department has issued its final environmental assessment report of the Keystone XL pipeline and found no significant impact on greenhouse gases, it’s time for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to approve it.

The environmental review on the pipeline has been in the works for five years. State and federal regulators have extensively reviewed the environmental impact and given it passing grades.

In fact, if the pipeline is not approved and built, Canadian companies will simply ship the crude oil by rail, which would increase greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent to 42 percent compared to the pipeline shipments, according to the State Department report.

The report also notes that the Canadian heavy crude supplies will be developed whether or not Keystone is built. So, again, denial by the U.S. will have no impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

The pipeline would increase the supply of gasoline and other products being produced by U.S. refiners in the Gulf Coast. Any increase in supply is likely to have a downward impact on gasoline prices especially at a time when gasoline and oil consumption is moderating in the United States. Obviously the market cannot be predicted with exactitude, but opponents often overlook how lower energy prices can spur economic growth, including many of the green industries and pollution-cutting technologies that opponents of Keystone want to see happen.

There are many economic and environmental reasons to move forward with Keystone. The reasons to halt it seem mostly political.

Opponents say it will increase the level of greenhouse gases. The report by the Obama-led state department says there will be no significant greenhouse gas impact. The opponents have not been able to come up with reasonable economic and environmental arguments, instead they mostly vow to hold vigils and protest pipeline construction holding civil disobedience rallies.

There will be a heavy political push by opponents for Kerry and the Obama administration to reject the project in an election year when Democrats don’t want to weaken any support they might have from their base.

One Obama contributor, Neva Goodwin, co-director of the Global Development and Environmental Institute at Tufts University, told the Washington Post that she would be working with “an informal network of political donors that will be pushing Kerry to do the right thing.”

Ironically, she is the great-granddaughter of John Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil.

Others opponents, such as Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, told the Post if Obama approved the pipeline “he reduces what little credibility he has to the rest of the world in showing that the U.S. is going to be a climate-change leader.”

That statement is telling because it suggests Obama should make the decision to “show the world” we’re environmental leaders when he should be showing Americans we’re going to have a sensible energy policy that safely increases the supply of energy from our friends and is produced by refiners in the U.S.

In any case, denying the pipeline won’t change the economic forces that are bringing the heavy Canadian crude onto the market. But denial of the project will cost U.S. workers 2,000 construction jobs during the two-year building period and the U.S. economy $3.4 billion.

And while environmentalists seem zealous to make Keystone their narrative, the Obama administration can take pride in its current environmental record. It took one of the biggest steps to reducing greenhouse gases when it administratively increased fuel mileage standards for American vehicles.

It has invested through subsidies and tax credits in green energy like solar and biofuels. It has been willing to consider reasonable ideas to open up more land for domestic oil production to the point where for the first time we’re producing more oil at home than importing from abroad.

Certainly, global warming and greenhouse gases should be a concern, but stopping the Keystone pipeline will not address either of those issues, as report after report is now showing.

It’s time for the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.