Obama’s Baffling Keystone XL Pipeline Denial

By Beacon Staff

Seriously? Iran threatens to choke off the Strait of Hormuz, America desperately needs jobs and President Obama turns his back on a pipeline project essential to North American energy production – disavowing his own “energy policies.” It’s worse than merely election-year theatrics – it is dismissive of the very notion of actually standing for something.

Let’s look at what the President said – and what he did.

Last March, the President detailed his energy policy in a speech at Georgetown University. In September, he made an important televised address to Congress on jobs.

Presumably, those speeches were intended to be the official line on the administration’s views.

Keystone XL is a $7 billion project intended to move oil from western Canada, as well as Montana and North Dakota, to refineries in Texas.

Back in August, it appeared the pipeline was completely in sync with the administration’s goals. David L. Goldwyn, who until earlier in the year had served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, said then the case for Keystone had been made.

The President’s own speeches suggested the pipeline project aligned perfectly with stated policy objectives on the energy and jobs fronts.

In March, in the midst of the Arab spring, the President said, “One area of particular concern has been the cost and security of our energy.”

The President set a goal to reduce imports of oil. “I set this goal,” he said, “knowing that imported oil will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time. And when it comes to oil we import from other nations, we can partner with neighbors like Canada, Mexico and Brazil.”

He went on to say that “meeting this new goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things: finding and producing more oil at home, and reducing our dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.”

Later, in his jobs speech, the President said there are “private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work” and noted that a “world class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower.”

Here in Montana, that kind of talk prompted some optimism.

We know that more than 95 percent of the energy required to power America’s transportation industry comes from oil and gas, and we contribute to that.

We know that the shovel-ready Keystone XL project would generate tens of thousands of U.S. construction, manufacturing and related jobs, that it has strong support from at least 15 unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and that, because it was privately funded, taxpayers would not have to pay a dime for this economic stimulus.

We know that Canada is already the No. 1 source of imported oil to the United States and that synthetic crude made from Canada’s oil sands could reach 4 million barrels a day by 2020, twice what we currently import from the volatile Persian Gulf. We know Canada is going to sell its oil whether the United States is interested or not.

We know we already have 50,000 miles of oil pipeline in this country that have provided low energy prices and thousands of jobs with minimal environmental harm. And we know there is certainly much less environmental risk to the planet in a pipeline than from shipping crude oil by supertanker to refineries in China.

Closer to home, we also know that the pipeline would play a critical role in “continuing to increase America’s oil supply,” as the President put it. Keystone XL would provide an on-ramp for the Bakken oil play in eastern Montana and North Dakota, where innovative drilling techniques now make it possible to get at an estimated 3.65 billion barrels of high-quality recoverable oil.

Finally, we know that the pipeline project that Obama rejected was studied for more than three years, that the final environmental impact statement anticipated “little adverse environmental impacts” and said that the project “would have a degree of safety greater than any typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current regulations.”

We understand all that.

What we don’t understand is why President Obama – when it comes to creating jobs and securing America’s energy independence – is so unwilling to follow a course he himself set.

Dave Galt is executive director of the Montana Petroleum Association.

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