If President Obama attempts to use the Keystone XL pipeline as a bargaining chip, it would be just another example of the Administration’s inability to acknowledge the facts about the KXL. Economically and environmentally, the project is a no-brainer. In its Final Environmental Impact Statement on the project, President Obama’s own State Department found that the project would create 42,100 jobs including over 9,000 construction jobs bringing more than $5 billion in private investment into the U.S. economy.
Furthermore, if the president is looking to establish a legacy for his efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions, denying the Keystone XL pipeline would be a mistake. The State Department’s FSEIS also concluded that oil sands development is inevitable, with or without the pipeline. Without crude from Canada, the U.S. will be forced to rely on overseas imports including from the Middle East, which would produce twice the greenhouse gas per barrel compared to the Keystone XL pipeline. And if Canadian producers look to sell their product to Asia via tanker, even more carbon emissions will be generated.
Politically, the president’s insistence on holding out on Keystone XL approval may be hurting members of his own party. Polling shows that the majority of voters in Colorado and Iowa, states with anti-Keystone Democrat candidates who lost their races on in the 2014 midterm elections, support the construction of the pipeline. The 2014 midterm elections brought in a flood of pro-KXL candidates, and bipartisan support of the pipeline’s approval has given the project a chance to move forward for the first time in years. And by some counts, the current Keystone legislation passed by the House is only 4 votes away from a veto-proof majority.
It’s clear that the KXL is a non-partisan issue, with 65% of Americans believing that the pipeline should be approved. Instead of recognizing and embracing the enormous benefits of the project, President Obama has left the KXL in limbo, potentially to increase its value as political capital. Negotiation should not be part of the discussion about KXL when all signs clearly point to approval.