The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 2, 2013

Obama still wrong on Keystone

Why it matters The Keystone pipeline project has been delayed unnecessarily by the Obama administration

The Mankato Free Press

---- — The latest dustup between bipartisan groups in Congress and President Obama on the Keystone pipeline project that center around the number of jobs it would create stand as a diversion to the main issue: Approval of this project is long overdue and the Obama administration is responsible for the delay and the continued high gas prices that come with it.

The first delay in approval came before last year’s election, with the administration making a case that the State Department’s environmental review was not complete and there were still some standing issues with the states involved including Nebraska.

While some suspected that was a political move to avoid the controversy before the election, there were legitimate questions outstanding.

But now, those questions have been answered by and large. The review was said to have been completed last December.

Final touches on approval were going to be completed in March.

Now, the administration says the State Department is still not done with its study. Nebraska’s issues had been resolved. The governor approved a review by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

Yet, here we are haggling over whether the project will create 2,000 construction jobs (Obama’s recent estimate) or his own State Department’s estimate of 3,900 construction jobs.

The State Department even estimated the project would create 42,000 jobs overall, provide about $2 billion in worker’s earnings, $3.3 billion in construction materials and $67 million in state and local taxes.

Frankly, in this economy, one job would be better than none. Fact checkers from The Washington Post and Politifact have ruled Obama’s jobs statement inaccurate. The Obama administration has not responded, but seems to be letting its interest groups do so for it.

Jobs have always been a nice benefit of construction projects and politicians of varying stripes are quick to point to jobs as the reason for building almost anything. But we should remember, the Keystone XL pipeline is going to increase — relatively — the supply of oil in the world economy and help put downward pressure on gas prices.

Estimates say the project will help add up to 830,000 barrels of oil a day to the market, according to Bloomberg News.

It will also diversify the number of countries supplying the U.S. with oil. Canada is a friendly and stable supplier compared to the volatility that has beset the economies and governments of the Middle East.

As we urged in February, the Obama administration needs to stop dragging its feet and moving the goalposts on this one. While Obama downplayed any concern about greenhouse gases related to the project before the election, he seems to think they are relevant now.

A report in The New York Times called this Obama’s “new litmus test” and quoted Obama saying, “Our national interest will be served only if this pipeline does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” Obama is clearly moving the goalposts on this project.

Nebraska officials have signed off on the project. A bipartisan group of senators had written a letter to Obama earlier this year urging him to approve the pipeline as it is in the national interest. A similar pipeline was approved from Canada to Wisconsin just a few years ago. More Democratic senators challenged Obama on the delay again this week.

An in-depth environmental study was done. The pipeline company, TransCanada, has complied with all requirements for its $7 billion investment.

The delays now appear to be strictly political. The environmental lobby continues to put pressure on Obama to stop this project. Large donors to Obama’s campaign, including billionaire Tom Steyer, have urged Obama not to approve the project. Obama is wrong for delaying this project. He’s running out of excuses.

Many in the president’s own party support the project, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana. Democrats should think seriously about withholding support for the president’s second term agenda unless he does the right thing and allows the Keystone Xl pipeline to be built.