- - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama has promised to “slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.”

The Alberta to Texas Keystone XL pipeline would let him do exactly that: cut through endless red tape and create numerous shovel-ready jobs. His signature would be a major step in creating some 40,000 jobs — more than half the 74,000 jobs created nationwide last December.

They would include high-paying work in construction; in factories that make steel, pipe, valves, cement and other pipeline equipment; in office, hotel, restaurant and other service industries; and in the Canadian, North Dakotan and other oil fields whose output would be transported by the pipeline to refineries and petrochemical plants, where still more workers would be employed.

With Mr. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waging war on communities and states that mine and use coal, these jobs and energy resources are even more important to economic revival and middle America’s blue-collar workers.

States along the pipeline route would receive $5 billion in new property tax revenues, and still more in workers’ income tax payments. Federal coffers would also realize hefty gains.

Most oil from Canada’s oil sands and North Dakota’s Bakken shale deposits currently moves by railroad and truck, often through populated areas. Accidents have forced towns to evacuate and killed 50 people in Quebec.

Corporate executives and government regulators are working to improve tanker designs and reroute traffic. Still, despite occasional accidents, pipelines have a much better safety record. Keystone would be built with state-of-the-art pipe and valves using the latest design, manufacturing, construction and inspection specifications. The route has been configured to avoid population centers, sensitive wildlife areas and Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer.

Building Keystone will enable Canadian and North Dakota petroleum to meet consumer needs. In conjunction with other new pipelines, it will minimize the need to flare natural gas, which is a byproduct of Bakken shale oil production.

The pipelines will also help get propane and natural gas to places that need these fuels. Recent maintenance problems, plus unusually high demand for propane to convert corn to ethanol, created temporary shortages and soaring prices amid this long and frigid winter.

Keystone will also help oil from Canada and from public and private lands in the United States to continue reducing imports from unfriendly dictatorships. That is vital in the face of congressional and Obama administration restrictions on leasing and drilling in federal onshore and offshore oil and gas prospects in Alaska and the lower 48 states.

The pipeline approval will end dithering that has frayed U.S.-Canada relations and compelled Canada to take decisive steps toward building a new pipeline from Alberta the Canadian West Coast for shipment to Asia’s growing economies.

Further delays will not reduce oil sands development — only alter the oil’s destination.

A letter from all 45 Republican senators requests that Mr. Obama approve the pipeline construction “as soon as possible.” Several Democrats have said privately that they support Keystone, but are nervous about publicly challenging the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Partisan politics are again trumping the clear national interest.

On Jan. 31, the State Department reaffirmed its previous conclusion: Keystone is unlikely to noticeably increase demand for Canadian oil sands — or global carbon-dioxide emissions, which Mr. Obama blames for climate change and “weather disruption.”

Powerful, complex, interconnected natural forces have caused climate and weather changes since Earth was formed. The president ignores the only pertinent issues: Have human carbon-dioxide emissions replaced those natural forces? Can we control the climate by slashing hydrocarbon use, reducing living standards and switching to renewable energy? Actual observations show the answer is no.

Moreover, notes climatologist Paul Knappenberger, oil sands production would add a minuscule 0.06 percent to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, a tiny fraction of that to global emissions, and an undetectable fraction of a degree per year to computer-model temperature projections.

With re-election behind him, the president no longer has to bow to his radical green base. By approving the pipeline, thereby shortcutting another interminable study of whether Keystone energy and jobs are “in the national interest,” he could satisfy independents and his union base.

He would even reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, which the State Department says would be 28-42 percent lower if Canada’s oil is shipped via pipeline rather than train or truck.

Democrats want unemployed workers to lobby Republicans for extended jobless benefits. Would-be workers should instead demand that the president to do what’s right for America: generate jobs and revenues by approving Keystone.

A county judge invalidated Gov. Dave Heineman’s approval of the route through Nebraska, saying any eminent domain decision should have been made by Nebraska’s Public Service Commission, which regulates pipelines. However, the commission’s likely approval will render the judge’s ruling moot and cause only minor delays in building the pipeline’s Cornhusker segment.

The truly important decision is President Obama’s. Will Mr. Obama cut through the red tape, and help put our nation back to work? Will there finally be real hope and change, or just more hype and rhetoric? America is waiting.

Paul Driessen is senior policy adviser for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of “Eco-Imperialism: Green Power — Black Death” (Merril Press, 2010).

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