Published January 20, 2012
One of the reasons the unemployment rate has been stuck above 8 percent for years is because the Obama administration is actively blocking the private sector from creating jobs. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline, now in its third year of review, would have gone a long way toward boosting American job creation and strengthening our energy security. But the President prefers the politics of energy poverty and has sided with environmentalist radicals over hardworking Americans and their families.
The decision for the president should have been simple because the question is simple—is a pipeline from Canada to the United States in the “national interest?” Precisely what part of stable oil supplies, tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, and strengthening trade with our closest ally is not in the national interest?
Apparently, that’s not good enough for the Obama administration. Somewhere along the way, it seems, the president has misunderstood the difference between what is good for America and what is good for the special interests that support him and staff his favorite lobbying groups.
The opponents of the Keystone XL claim that the pipeline would be an environmental catastrophe, yet the Obama administration’s extensive environmental review found otherwise. In fact, the State Department’s environmental studies confirmed what we knew from the beginning—that a new pipeline would have a limited environmental impact, much less so than transport by barge, truck, or railcar. That pipelines have a limited environmental impact is one of the reasons we have more than 50,000 miles of crude oil pipelines in the U.S. already.
Another common complaint is that a pipeline will increase greenhouse gas emissions. This argument only makes sense, however, if the oil were to stay in the ground forever. But as Austan Goolsbee, the former chairman of the Obama’s White House Council of Economic Advisers, recently said, “Eventually, [a pipeline] is going to be built. It may go to the Pacific, it may go through Nebraska, but it’s going to be built somewhere.”
Indeed, the Canadian sands oil will enter the global oil supply whether U.S. refineries is the destination or not. To date, firms in China—the world’s fastest growing consumer of energy—have spent over $18 billion in acquiring interests in Canada’s oil sands.
The reality at the White House has nothing to do with protecting the environment -- it’s about reinforcing a myth of energy scarcity on the United States and driving up the price of energy.
For decades, one of the key tenets of environmental doctrine has been that the United States, and North America as a whole, is running out of affordable energy sources like oil, natural gas, and coal. For this reason, they argue, our economy must switch to renewables like wind farms and solar panels that produce electricity at intermittent rates. Through mandates, government has forced consumers to buy these sources, and the Obama administration has propped up Big Green Energy through taxpayer-funded loans to companies like Solyndra.
Yet the discovery of cost-effective oil production from Canadian oil reserves—as well as the large-scale deployment of shale technologies here in the U.S.—turns the environmentalists’ politics of energy scarcity on its head, and that is at the heart of the administration’s opposition to Keystone XL. The president wants the United States to be energy poor.
But we are not energy poor. North America is the richest place on earth when it comes to affordable energy sources.
Recently, the Institute for Energy Research released The North American Energy Inventory, which pulls together data from government sources to prove that North America holds the world’s largest combined oil, coal, and natural gas resources in the world.
How vast? There is enough oil in North America to fuel our present needs for 250 years. That’s how vast.
But it does not matter how vast our resources are if we cannot access them. That’s the point of the Keystone XL pipeline—to provide better access to Canada’s oil resources and the jobs for American workers that come from developing them. After all, it’s a $7 billion pipeline, the majority of which will be built by American workers in at least five states.
An infrastructure project of this size will create real construction jobs, and it will create jobs in American refineries when the oil starts flowing. All of these jobs are private sector—without taxpayer subsidies—and will help get American working families back on their feet.
Earlier this week, the President’s Jobs Council understood this. They said that “We should allow more access to oil, natural gas and coal opportunities on federal lands” and move forward quickly on projects that “deliver electricity and fuel,” including pipelines. If that doesn’t include the Keystone XL pipeline, it’s hard to understand what the President’s Jobs Council has in mind.
Allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to be built will create thousands of jobs and give the U.S. access to more oil resources from Canada, with the end result of improving our energy security.
More than anything, the Keystone XL pipeline is about symbolism.
That President Obama would prefer to push the U.S. down the road toward energy poverty instead of allowing it to share in the bounty of North America’s energy riches should not be lost on U.S. consumers.
It’s time for this president to stop worrying about his own job prospects and start worrying about millions of Americans who haven’t had a job since he was sworn into office.
Thomas J. Pyle is President and CEO of the American Energy Alliance.