Republicans in the Senate, led by Sen. Dick Lugar, have introduced a bill that would force President Obama to act on initiating construction of the-1,700 mile Keystone XL crude oil pipeline from Canada. The project is expected to create approximately 20,000 jobs and increase energy security for the United States.
Although President Obama has been openly mocking and denouncing Congress for failing to pass his jobs bill, his decision, through the State Department, to delay the Keystone XL project until after the November 2012 elections has led to criticism that the president is putting politics ahead of the best interests of the country.
37 Republican senators signed onto the bill that would require the administration to approve the pipeline project within 60 days, unless Mr. Obama declares the project is not in the national interest.
The Keystone project has been interesting in that it has marked a division between two groups that have been very supportive of the president: environmentalists and Big Labor. Environmental groups, fearing oil spills and other ecological disasters, as well as celebrity “green” fans, have opposed the pipeline plan, while labor groups have supported it in the hopes of obtaining high-paying union jobs. In addition, none of the states involved in the pipeline’s path- Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma or Texas- supported Mr. Obama in the presidential election of 2008.
While the Keystone project had already been found to be environmentally sound prior to the president’s delay of the pipeline’s construction, some rerouting of the pipeline was done in Nebraska, for example, and approved by that state’s legislature quickly so as not to prevent the project from moving forward. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska) is supporting the bill to force implementation of the pipeline. “This bill respects the Nebraska process to protect the Sand Hills while providing a commonsense approach to bring friendly oil and jobs to the U.S. without unnecessary delay,” he said.
If the pipeline project is not implemented, Canada has said that it will sell its oil to China.
If Mr. Obama’s motivation is political, the environmentalists appear to have his attention. However, the president is likely not only deferring to warnings about the immediate environment of the pipeline, but also the larger “green” issue that allowing the project to move forward would further cement the United State’s commitment to fossil fuels, an image that this liberal president would likely find distasteful.
Let’s hope Sen. Lugar and his colleagues prevail on this issue.