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Mr. Obama’s own State Department has said the project won’t significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions because the Canadian fuel is likely to be extracted and burned regardless of whether Keystone is built.

The Canadian government, a frequent critic of the White House’s years of indecision on Keystone, went a step further, charging that even if Mr. Obama rejects Keystone, he still won’t be able to keep the fuel off of U.S. soil.

“His choice is to have [the oil] come down by a pipeline that he approves, or without his approval, it comes down on trains. That’s just the raw common sense of this thing, and we’ve been saying it for two years and we’ve been proven correct,” Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer told the Globe and Mail newspaper. “At the end of the day, it’s trains or pipelines.”

While the northern portion of the pipeline — which would stretch from Albert to Steele City, Okla. — has been on hold for about five years, the southern leg is nearly complete. That section, running from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast, has created about 4,000 jobs — double the figure cited by Mr. Obama.

“I think the Americans we have put to work so far appreciate the fact they have been able to put food on the table for their families by helping to build Keystone,” said Shawn Howard, TransCanada spokesman.

Mr. Obama made the comments as he is trying to set the stage for budget and debt negotiations with House Republicans in September.

In spite of the Keystone controversy, Mr. Obama will travel Tuesday to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he will promote economic policies to create middle-class jobs, said White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest.

“He’s talking about his view that when we’re making economic policy decisions in Washington, D.C., we need to put the interests of the middle-class families front and center,” Mr. Earnest said. “If we can make the kind of investments that will expand economic opportunity for the middle class, then we can get a growing and thriving economic recovery and … that should be everybody’s priority.”