EDITORIAL: Unlocking the Keystone pipeline

Congress moves to do what the president won’t

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Weary of waiting for President Obama to provide leadership and relief for fuel prices, Democrats and Republicans in Washington are boarding the bandwagon for the Keystone XL pipeline. Partisan politics stop at the gas pump.

Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota, a Republican, and Max Baucus of Montana, a Democrat, introduced legislation Thursday to enable approval of Keystone without the president’s signature. Rep. Lee Terry, Nebraska Republican, followed with a companion measure in the House on Friday. The average price of a gallon of gas that has fluctuated in the high-$3 range for a year now stands at $3.69 and is trending higher once again. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Earlier this month, the State Department issued an environmental-impact statement approving the stalled energy project. Now, just as the paperwork for final approval has landed on the president’s desk, some Democrats are breaking ranks and joining their Republican colleagues in an attempt to cut the president out of the process. The 1,700-mile pipeline would help quench the nation’s gasoline thirst by transporting 800,000 barrels of crude every day from Canada’s oil sands to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Only the president’s veto pen stands between the nation’s energy needs and more affordable fuel.

While Mr. Obama says he’s all in for boosting oil and gas production, a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service contradicts him. The record of fossil-fuel production during his tenure reveals that nearly every recent increase in oil and natural-gas production was on state-owned and private property, not federal land. U.S. oil production has increased by 1.1 million barrels per day between fiscal 2007 and 2012 on state and private land, but has fallen by 7 percent on federal land. For natural gas, production since 2007 has grown by 4 trillion cubic feet — up 40 percent on state and private land, but down by 33 percent on federal land.

The Congressional Research Service places partial blame on a slowdown in the federal drilling-application process. From 2006 to 2011, the average time needed to approve applications has risen from 218 days to 307 days. The complexity of paperwork involved in getting the government’s approval of drilling sites inhibits production and contributes to higher prices at the pump.

It’s hardly a secret that Mr. Obama’s White House styles itself deep green. He has prescribed higher taxes on the oil and gas industry to fund his $2 billion Energy Security Trust to pay for research into windmills, solar panels and electric cars. Pie-in-the-sky energy projects won’t change the facts on the ground. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says renewables such as solar, wind, algae and sludge provide only about 5 percent of the nation’s energy needs, and that is unlikely to change substantially in the foreseeable future, despite billions in federal subsidies.

America runs on gasoline, and the Keystone XL pipeline would go a long way toward filling the nation’s tank. If the president won’t put a signature on the dotted line, Congress should put one there.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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