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Time for Keystone

The Detroit News

The U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a bill Tuesday night that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline — and possibly saved the Senate career of Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu.

But Landrieu couldn’t find the additional vote needed to push this issue to President Barack Obama’s desk in this lame-duck session. So that moves the pipeline issue over to January, when the new GOP-controlled Senate takes over, and when it is likely to become a needlessly distracting friction point.

The next Senate should pass the bill. While its impact on the economy is likely overblown, Keystone would create some jobs, and is the greener option for transporting petroleum from the Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

Indeed, the environmental risk is overstated; the Keystone Pipeline will be a far more energy efficient and environmentally safe way to move the oil than rail car or tanker truck, which is how it is getting to the Gulf today.

If the oil is not refined in the U.S. by American workers, it will go to China or elsewhere, where it will be processed and burned under environmental standards far less strict than those of the United States.

Even the State Department concluded the pipeline would have little affect on climate change, since development of the Canadian oil sands contributes just 0.01 percent to global carbon emissions. Various government studies have found the risk of spills to be very small as well.

Meanwhile, Keystone would create construction jobs, and offers at least the possibility of decreasing dependence on foreign oil.

The pipeline is of critical importance to Canada, America’s most important trading partner, and a friend whose interests should not be held hostage to political scuffling in the U.S.

Polls indicate 59 percent of Americans support approval of the pipeline.

Although west Michigan suffered from the rupture of an Enbridge pipeline earlier this decade, America’s 150,000 miles of pipeline has a good safety track record.

With oil production in the U.S. skyrocketing, the amount of petroleum transported by rail has increased exponentially, and along with it the emission byproducts of rail travel. In 2013, rail transported 408,000 carloads of oil, up from just 9,500 in 2008. In the first half of 2014, 230,000 carloads have been already transported by rail. Rail accidents are far more common than pipeline breaks.

It’s been six years since TransCanada requested permission to build Keystone XL. The project has met every test, except for the political one. Congress should pass the bill, and the president should sign it, and make this distracting issue go away.