Environmental concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline have been addressed and supporters say President Obama is officially out of excuses for delaying a project that would create tens of thousands of jobs.
Keystone would connect the Canadian oil sands to the U.S. gulf coast and purportedly spark job creation in every state along the way.
In the minds of Keystone supporters, the last hurdle was cleared when Nebraska Gov. David Heineman approved a new route for the pipeline through his state that protects ecologically sensitive areas.
“That was one of the main reasons that the president rejected this back in January of 2012 was that there were environmental concerns about the route that it was going to take,” said Mississippi Rep. Gregg Harper, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and one of the strongest voices for the pipeline in Congress.
“There’s really nothing now that I can see that would be holding the president back from going ahead and making this decision and approving this, particularly in light of where we are in the economy and the wide bipartisan supportfor approving this to bring in the oil from the oil sands in Canada. It makes perfect sense.”
The pipeline would snake through several states before reaching the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas coast. Those states would enjoy an economic boost from the construction and maintenance of the pipeline. However, Mississippi is not one of those states. So why is Harper such a passionate supporter?
“None of this pipeline would go through my state, but if we’re going to become energy independent in North America, this is a key component of that,” said Harper. “Having available, cheap energy in this country is a necessity in this country and so much of what we do depends on that for our business needs.”
“When Libya had a crisis, they only produced two percent of the world’s oil but it caused a 10 percent spike in oil prices. If we look at that. If we look at our balance of trade deficit as it relates to oil and how much we use per day in this country, this makes great sense,” said Harper. “I hope it would be one of the components as we try to strive for that energy independence.”
In addition to the environmental clash in this debate, one the points of greatest debate is whether this oil will actually be consumed in the United States. Supporters say yes, while critics say the U.S. is just a staging ground for shipping that energy overseas, particularly to China.
“There’s a false premise in that argument we get from the left, because by doing nothing, where is it going?” asked Harper. “It’s going to go to China and China has an insatiable appetite for oil right now. We’re going to be competing with them on the global market for much of this supply, so whether some of it goes for use here in the states or some of it is exported from the Texas gulf coast, either way it’s going to be good for our country.”
Harper says the job creation potential from the pipeline is also a major argument in favor of the project. Most estimates show approximately 20,000 jobs could be created in the construction and maintenance of the pipeline. He says the latest economic news should give Keystone an additional shot in the arm.
“As we look at what’s happened with the drop in the GDP, the negative growth, that typically is followed months later by by a spike or an increase in the unemployment rate,” said Harper. “So why not get ahead of that curve a little bit and let’s have something that will be a real boost. This is ready to go and we shouldn’t delay it any further.”
Harper holds out some hope that Obama will approve the pipeline now that Nebraska has approved the alternate route. The pipeline has bipartisan support, especially in the Senate and several labor unions are strong supporters of the project as well.
Harper says we should know by late spring if Obama intends to relent and allow Keystone to be built.