By U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg
The White House's latest line of defense for refusing to approve the Keystone XL pipeline crumbled recently, as the State Department concluded the pipeline proposal is environmentally safe and will not harm the land or water quality along its path. President Obama is running out of excuses.
Once completed, the $7 billion private-sector infrastructure Keystone XL pipeline project would extend an existing pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast, carrying nearly 1 million additional barrels of oil each day.
Pipelines don't build themselves. The State Department's latest study claims the pipeline's construction alone would support more than 40,000 direct and indirect jobs during the one- to two-year construction period, and bring in wages of about $2 billion, plus $3.3 billion in other spending.
Unfortunately, the Keystone XL pipeline has become both symbolic of the glacial pace of Washington regulators and the Obama administration's unwillingness to embrace private investment. It has, after all, been more than four years since backers of the Keystone XL pipeline first submitted an application to the State Department. However, Obama -- as recently as January 2012 -- rejected going forward on the project by claiming he was forced into making a quick decision with little background.
What has this indecisiveness cost us? Increased energy security and jobs.
Canada's recent oil sands discovery now places our northern neighbor only behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela in proven reserves. Having this significant resource so close to home, combined with our nation's shale energy boom, can only help our nation become less dependent on foreign sources of oil and help keep energy more affordable.
Also, at time a when our national unemployment rate continues to hover around 8 percent, it only seems regressive to prevent thousands of American workers such as pipefitters, welders and heavy machine operators from working to complete this 1,700-mile project.
Many labor unions agree as well. The country's largest union, the AFL-CIO, recently released a statement calling for the expansion of all U.S. pipelines. Meanwhile, other unions have been even more direct. Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers, said the oil from Canada is going to go somewhere, and it might as well help create jobs in the U.S. The president of the United Steelworkers said he would back the pipeline if the steel used to make the pipes was made in our own country.
During the 112th Congress, the House voted six times to allow for construction of the pipeline, and I remained committed to continuing to work with my House colleagues in getting this shovel-ready project underway. We also need to continue to pursue an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy that ends our dependence on foreign oil, leads to cheaper fuel bills and encourages a healthy economy. To achieve that, we need to develop and promote alternative fuels, grow our ability to produce nuclear energy and use environmentally friendly ways to develop domestic energy from Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf.
Let's move forward with an energy policy that recognizes the job-creating power and increased energy security of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will help lower energy prices and not add to our debt. Obama has run out of excuses. Let's get to work.