So what will it be, real jobs, real infrastructure improvements, expanded trade with Canada and more energy for America, or will it be political obstruction of the highest order to satisfy the countryís extreme green wing?
Unfortunately, the Obama administration has chosen the latter, digging in on a decision to delay permitting for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States until after the 2012 election.
In a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week, President Obama reaffirmed his decision to pursue a ďrigorousĒ review of the project, even though the project has been rigorously reviewed for the last three years and has won the support of the seven states it would pass through.
This is not rigorous enough for environmental groups that aim to block the project using every legal hammer in the toolbox. The Inter Lake is inundated with propaganda from these groups, and a recent article from Inside Climate News predicted there will be a wave of litigation if any effort to start the project gets under way.
So the Obama administration appears to have capitulated to its green constituency prior to the election, even as it claims that economic development is a top priority in the sense that it is pursuing job creation through federal spending. Itís estimated that the Keystone pipeline construction alone would create as many as 20,000 jobs through private investment by the Canadian energy company, TransCanada. Once built, the pipeline would continue to support jobs and economic activity that would best any phantom federal economic ďstimulusĒ spending.
With a languishing economy, high unemployment and high energy costs, America no longer has the luxury of spurning a privately funded energy infrastructure project like Keystone in the interest of feel-good environmentalism.
And thatís exactly what this is.
Itís not as if Keystone is something new and risky ó thousands of miles of older pipelines already criss-cross the country, and if anything, itís a good bet that the modern Keystone pipeline would be the soundest and safest of them all. Nor is there any reason to think that mothballing the project would put an end to Canada extracting oil from tar sands in Alberta because of an obtuse American refusal to get in on the game.
TransCanada has made it clear that if the oil isnít shipped through a pipeline to Texas refineries, it will be sold to other buyers who are less-than-friendly to the United States such as China, a country that has no interest in the claims of climate alarmists who simply want to see an end to fossil-fuel use regardless of the certainty that fossil fuels will be part of the worldís energy portfolio for decades to come.
The Obama administrationís position on this matter deserves every bit of the attention it is getting, and congressional Republicans are justified in their political response to put pressure on the White House. The House of Representatives is expected to pass legislation next week that would require the administration to either permit pipeline construction to proceed within 60 days or determine that it ďwould not serve the national interest.Ē That provision is lumped into a bill that would also extend a payroll tax cut, reform and extend unemployment insurance, and amend the Medicare reimbursement for doctors.
Obama has threatened to veto the package if it reaches his desk and Senate Democrats vow that it will not pass that chamber. But that puts Democrats in a tough position, making it look like that they dance to the tune of environmental obstructionists and scorn real job creation.
Itís important to note that Democrats are not universally opposed to the pipeline. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, along with many other Democratic politicians in the seven pipeline states, count themselves as ardent supporters of the project. Schweitzer views the pipeline as an outlet for oil drawn from Montanaís Bakken oil fields that would produce an additional $7.5 million in revenue for the state treasury.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., last week canceled a speaking engagement at a New York fundraiser for the League of Conservation Voters, one of the leading organizations opposing the pipeline. Good for him; now letís see how he votes.
This pipeline project is probably the most ambitious infrastructure pursuit the country has seen for years, and opposition to it deserves scrutiny along with a hefty political cost.