Next month will mark five years since TransCanada first applied to the U.S. State Department to build the Keystone XL pipeline. In those five years, we have endured a financial collapse and a Great Recession, and we continue to struggle with stubbornly high unemployment.
It should be an easy decision for the Obama administration to embrace the project's thousands of jobs and $7 billion infusion into the American economy, yet the president has resisted. Although the president famously vowed to "do whatever it takes" to create jobs, he seems to be doing all he can to avoid approving Keystone's presidential permit. With the stroke of a pen, he could support the creation of thousands of private-sector jobs as well as advance our energy security by allowing nearly 1 million additional barrels of North American oil to flow to U.S. refineries each day.
Despite the more than 15,500 pages of studies the State Department has already produced, the president recently moved the goal posts, asking the department to conduct an additional review. During his June climate speech at Georgetown University, President Obama introduced a new condition to the pipeline's approval, stating, "Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest. And our national interest will only be served if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward."
During its almost five years of review, the State Department has repeatedly concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline will not significantly affect greenhouse-gas emissions. The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released in March found "approval or denial of the proposed project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands ." In other words, Canada will continue to produce its rich oil sands, regardless of the pipeline's approval.
The State Department found that without the pipeline, the oil sands will find their way to markets by other means of transportation, which could actually produce a larger carbon footprint, making the president's new metric for the pipeline's approval even more curious. In fact, TransCanada announced last week it was moving forward with a proposal to build a $12 billon pipeline to the east, which could allow Canada's oil to be shipped on tankers to India or China. The bottom line is that regardless of a new carbon litmus test, this abundant energy resource will be developed. It is up to Mr. Obama to decide whether America or China will benefit.
Another disconcerting new litmus test has emerged in this debate: the value of Keystone's jobs. While backstage at a recent jobs rally, the president seemed to intentionally downplay the jobs that would be created by the landmark project in an interview with The New York Times. He argued, "Well, look, they might like to see 2,000 jobs initially. But that is a blip relative to the need." Yet again, the president is ignoring the findings of the State Department, which reported the pipeline would support upward of 42,000 jobs during construction.
The president doubled down on those comments by attacking the overall project during a subsequent rally, proclaiming, "Putting all your eggs in the basket of an oil pipeline that may only create about 50 permanent jobs isn't a jobs plan." Supporters of this project beg to differ. The Keystone XL pipeline is just one example of how private-sector resources can be leveraged to build the architecture to support our energy abundance, and support thousands of jobs in the process. Leading unions and manufacturers are desperate for the president to say "yes" to the Keystone pipeline because it will get thousands of workers off unemployment and back on the job.
There are very few policy issues that enjoy such broad support across the board — from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as leading unions and businesses large and small. Despite this strong support, especially among the labor community, Mr. Obama has disparaged the construction jobs that would be created by Keystone XL owing to their "temporary" nature. But every construction job by nature is temporary, including taxpayer-funded infrastructure jobs. As the president travels the country talking about job creation, the last thing he should be doing is attacking these blue-collar, private-sector jobs.
The studies are complete and the facts clear: The Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest. The State Department has confirmed numerous times over the past five years that the project will have minimal impact on the environment and create valuable American jobs. Keystone XL will be built with state-of-the-art technologies and incorporate 57 additional safety standards proposed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, giving it what the State Department previously called "a degree of safety greater than any typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current regulations."
The House of Representatives has now voted seven times to advance construction of the pipeline. In May, the House approved Rep. Lee Terry's Northern Route Approval Act with bipartisan support to bypass bureaucratic and legal delays and allow the job-creating project to move forward. Similar legislation was needed 40 years ago to achieve construction of the game-changing Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Now the Senate needs to follow suit to get folks back to work and to get the Canadian crude flowing to the lower 48. The president should welcome any project that will create jobs and boost our national security, but if the president won't say "yes" to Keystone, Congress will. After five years of delays, it is time to build.
Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.