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“One way to help out the people who are missing out on the wealth is by creating good jobs,” said David Miller, spokesman for Laborers’ International Union of North America, “and that’s exactly what this pipeline would do.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, last week offered three reasons to approve the pipeline. First, it will create jobs, some 13,000 constructions jobs and 7,000 manufacturing jobs. Second, it will increase the nation’s energy supply, and make the country less dependent on overseas oil. Third, Canada is more sensitive to the environmental impact than are Middle Eastern oil countries.

For a nation struggling to find jobs, the pipeline is too good of an opportunity to pass up, Mr. Graham said. That’s perhaps the most likely reason why the Obama administration would shun environmentalists and approve the pipeline project.

“If they don’t, this will be a defining issue in 2012,” he said.