- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The White House’s pre-emptive strike on the Keystone XL oil pipeline is a disaster for American workers and consumers. President Obama continues to demonstrate that he has no idea how real jobs are created or how the economy works.

The proposed pipeline would bring oil from the tar sands in Alberta to refining centers in the United States. The project would produce 20,000 direct jobs and indirectly employ 118,000. Once completed, it would enable America to continue to shift oil imports away from trouble spots such as the Middle East and regimes that American consumers would rather not be supporting. Predictably for a fossil-fuel project, Keystone XL ran into opposition from environmental groups and became a rallying cry for greens disappointed by Mr. Obama’s perceived failure to energetically push their agenda. The pipeline project was seen as the last straw, especially after uber-global-warming alarmist James Hansen declared that completing Keystone would mean “game over for the planet.”

In November, after a series of high-profile protests by celebrities, the State Department announced that a lengthy review process was necessary to find a route around the sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska. That pushed off the decision on Keystone until after the 2012 election, allowing Mr. Obama to dodge the issue. Congress responded by demanding an answer by Feb. 21, and rather than use the remaining month to conclude the study, the White House punted on third down and blamed Republicans.

This decision makes no sense. Blocking Keystone followed a recommendation from the president’s own Council on Jobs and Competitiveness that advocated the “development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects … to facilitate the delivery of America’s fuel and electricity and maintain the reliability of our nation’s energy system.” The White House quickly noted that this jobs recommendation didn’t refer to Keystone but to “domestic” pipeline projects. A pipeline is a pipeline, however. The projects create jobs and build the nation’s energy infrastructure. Despite liberal spin, almost all of Keystone would be within the United States.

In his statement Wednesday, Mr. Obama maintained that Keystone wouldn’t be a job engine anyway. “However many jobs might be generated by a Keystone pipeline,” he said, “they’re going to be a lot fewer than the jobs that are created by extending the payroll tax cut and extending unemployment insurance.” The fact that Mr. Obama believes unemployment insurance actually creates jobs and is a more important source of employment than a major pipeline project only underscores his lack of economic smarts.

The political rationale of bowing to green activism is easy to understand. Mr. Obama faces a tough re-election battle and cannot afford an independent challenge on his left flank. But the environmentalist argument doesn’t hold up. Blocking the pipeline won’t stop what extremists see as the exploitation of the Alberta tar sands. The oil - purported to be very polluting - will instead be shipped west to help fill China’s seemingly limitless energy requirements. Rather than being used according to strict U.S. pollution guidelines, the dirty oil will be burned under less stringent Chinese rules.

By the environmentalists’ own logic, “game over” will come more swiftly without Keystone. It’s a good thing man-made global warming is a myth.

The Washington Times

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