It sure didn’t take long. Just barely into his second term, President Obama is faced yet again with a crucial decision about our nation’s energy future: Will he prioritize American jobs and energy security, or will he appease environmental extremists by once again rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline?
A year ago, the president rejected Keystone ostensibly because of its route through Nebraska. Mr. Obama’s largely symbolic decision didn’t do much to placate the pipeline’s opponents, but it did serve to disappoint the thousands of Americans the project promised to employ. Indeed, preventing the construction of the pipeline in the United States won’t stop the Canadian oil from going to other parts of the world. Rejecting the pipeline and allowing Canada to send its oil via pipeline, train and tanker to Asia actually would generate more carbon-dioxide emissions than its proposed route through the United States.
Even though the State Department has concluded that the environmental risks of the pipeline are minimal, environmental activists continue to whine about its construction.
Meanwhile, thousands of prospective high-paying jobs from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the Midwest’s Canadian border have been put on hold. Wages for refinery workers, for example, are 50 percent higher than the national average. Unfortunately, many Americans aren’t yet being given the chance to earn those wages.
Despite protests from environmental activists, the American people overwhelmingly support building the pipeline. According to a survey by the American Energy Alliance, 79 percent of Americans support the project.
A Fox News survey released last year showed that 67 percent of Americans say it should be built. Another poll released by United Technologies and National Journal showed 64 percent of Americans believed the Keystone XL pipeline would create jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Moreover, in response to Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman’s recent approval of the new route through his state, 53 senators, including nine Democrats, signed a letter to the president urging him to approve the pipeline. Ten Republican governors have also sent a letter to Mr. Obama making the case for the Keystone pipeline.
The pipeline does more than create much-need jobs and revenues, though. It reduces the country’s dependence on oil from overseas. Most Americans would rather buy oil from the Canadians than send $70 million a day to buy it from the Middle East.
When Mr. Obama first arrived in Washington, he promised change. He promised the old ways of the capital’s political culture were finished. He said he would do away with the “broken politics in Washington.”
This decision on the Keystone pipeline tests those promises. Last time, Mr. Obama punted on that decision, not willing either to approve the construction or permanently reject it. It was Washington politics as usual.
The president is required by law to make his decision on the Keystone pipeline based on what is in the “national interest.” It seems pretty obvious that buying oil from Canada is in the “national interest,” especially when the alternative is buying oil from overseas.
The president likely punted last year to keep environmental activists engaged and working on his re-election. Now the campaign is behind us, though, and the president has a choice. He can continue to stall, or he can decide to lead the country toward energy security and remove the Keystone pipeline from bureaucratic limbo.
Environmental activists may continue to protest, and the State Department may still take months to review the project, but ultimately, the decision is the president’s. It’s time he does the right thing.
Tom Pyle is president of the Institute for Energy Research.