- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2013

The rail explosion over the weekend in Quebec piles tragedy upon tragedy. Fifteen persons died, and dozens more are missing or unaccounted for in the small town of Lac-Megantic, where a train of 72 oil tankers derailed, setting off explosions and fires that leveled 30 homes and businesses.

It’s a grim reminder that moving oil by rail through urban and suburban centers and rural areas is freighted with dangers, all of them serious. The trains pass through cities large and small with risks that wouldn’t be there if the crude oil moved through a dedicated pipeline.

President Obama is stalling the safe alternative, refusing to approve construction of the pipeline that would relieve pressure on the American rail system. The proposed Keystone XL project would safely deliver oil from the tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast, creating thousands of jobs along the way.

The president has kept the project in limbo for years, withholding that approval in deference to dubious environmental concerns dreamed up by zealots at the Environmental Protection Agency. They’re afraid the pipeline would disturb prairie chickens, beetles and most of all, environmentalists. Project organizers agreed to reroute the pipeline to accommodate most of the concerns, but the complaint now becomes a prophecy that the pipeline would spawn carbon dioxide and trigger climate catastrophe. We could, of course, cut carbon-dioxide emissions dramatically if everyone would quit breathing. But we have to live our lives, after all. What the Keystone fanatics despise is affordable energy and the progress it promotes.

Beholden to the environmental lobby or not, Mr. Obama faces significant pressure from allies on the other side of the debate, too. His own State Department finally conceded that the Keystone XL would pose no genuine environmental problem. With a 7.6 percent unemployment rate (and a record number of job-hunters who have just quit looking), the president could give immediate relief with the stroke of a pen. The American Petroleum Institute predicts that Keystone could lead to the creation of 500,000 jobs by 2035. The unions and a growing number of Senate Democrats fret that oil from the tar sands in western Canada won’t come here, but go to China, if the Keystone pipeline is rejected.

The facts are simple, compelling and clear: The Canadian oil will be extracted and sold, either to refineries in the United States or to nations across the seas. The oil will be shipped from Canada, either by tanker to Asia or by pipeline to refineries here. Jobs will created either in the United States or somewhere else. So why not here?

If Mr. Obama wants to demonstrate a serious commitment to creating jobs and safely transporting the oil — which soared to $105 a barrel Wednesday — he should approve the Keystone pipeline and do it now. If he wants to proceed with his “fundamental transformation” of America, which begins with putting the country at an energy disadvantage, rejecting Keystone is a start. Voters must remember that in November 2014.

The Washington Times

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