President Obama has punted on Keystone XL so many times, it seems like he could have covered the 1,700-mile route of the oil pipeline. With this afternoon’s release of a positive “final environmental impact statement” by the State Department, though, he should do what he should have done a long time ago: Give the green light to finishing the northern route of Keystone XL.
State’s latest environmental impact statement — the first under Secretary John Kerry — largely draws the same conclusions of its past environmental impact statements. It finds that the pipeline, a Canada-based project to deliver up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day to Gulf Coast refineries, would pose no significant environmental risk and would not contribute substantially to carbon dioxide emissions.
In a speech last June, President Obama said the climate effects of Keystone XL would have an impact on the Administration’s ultimate decision. The reality is that the pipeline’s climate effects would be minimal.
The final environmental impact statement concludes “that approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply demand scenarios.”
Even those who believe that climate change is heading toward catastrophic outcomes note that Keystone XL is only 0.2 percent of the “carbon budget.”
Opponents also will minimize the job numbers, saying that the pipeline will create only “a handful” of permanent jobs — and that’s correct. But that argument also dismisses the tens of thousands of construction jobs that the pipeline project will create. In fact, simply building the southern portion—which didn’t need the President’s approval—has already created 4,000 construction jobs.
Keystone XL also will add economic value, can be built without the help of the taxpayer, will result in billions of dollars of tax revenue for states it runs through, and will provide a stable supply of oil from Canada, an important trading partner.
It’s now up to President Obama to determine whether Keystone XL is in the national interest. Let’s go for it this time, Mr. President, rather than punt again.