Keystone tests Obama’s willingness to cooperate

The Detroit News

The reason President Barack Obama should cooperate with Congress on approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is that there are no good reasons to do otherwise. It’s a bill that enjoys rare bipartisan support and its adoption would signal to the American people that Republicans and Democrats are capable of working together to get something done.

Yet Obama has warned he will veto the bill, which passed the House on a strong bipartisan majority Friday. That’s hardly the way to build the cooperative environment the president claims to be seeking.

The president has dragged out approval of the pipeline from the Canadian oil sands for his full six years in office, initially citing environmental concerns despite conclusions by his own State Department that the impact and risks are minimal.

Now, Obama has switched to an economic argument, claiming the glut of oil on world markets makes the pipeline unnecessary, and that it would be of little benefit to the United States. The administration contends only a puny 2,000 construction jobs would be created, and just 35 permanent jobs, and says the oil would simply pass through the U.S. on its way to world markets.

Those are straw men. The real reason Obama has delayed approval of Keystone XL is to appease the strident environmentalists who make up the tea party equivalent of the Democratic Party — ideologues who will not permit compromise.

He has pandered to wealthy, environmentally motivated Democratic donors at the expense of labor Democrats who covet the jobs the $3.3 billion infrastructure project would produce.

And by the way, Obama’s flippant dismissal of the employment potential again flies in the face of State Department studies. A year ago, the department estimated Keystone XL would generate 10,000 construction jobs and 16,000 spin-off jobs. And yes, those jobs are temporary, as are all construction jobs. That’s never stopped the president from advocating for massive government spending on infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy.

Keystone XL approval is also vital to America’s No. 1 trading partner and closest ally, Canada. The Canadian economy would benefit from moving the Alberta Oil Sands petroleum to refineries on America’s Gulf Coast. Obama’s claims that the pipeline would only benefit Canada is an insult to a good friend.

And it isn’t true. If the oil moves to the Gulf Coast instead of to, say, China, the United States will have easy access to it should domestic production slow or supplies from overseas are disrupted. Better for the U.S. to get its oil from friendly Canada than from the volatile OPEC nations.

As for environmental concerns, they’ve been effectively refuted. The State Department says the carbon impact from refining the oil sands petroleum in the U.S. is statistically insignificant.

Transporting the oil by pipeline instead of rail is far safer. The risk of a spill that impacts the environment has been deemed minimal by independent scientists, and the route has been changed to avoid the most sensitive ecosystems.

Obama has also cited an injunction issued by a court in Nebraska which is hearing a lawsuit filed by landowners as another reason to stall approval. But that state’s Supreme Court cleared away the obstacle on Friday, ruling the Nebraska governor does have the authority to OK the pipeline.

Just as Obama has repeatedly urged GOP leaders to ignore the radical elements of their party and work for the good of the American people, he should do the same and not allow hard-left environmentalists to derail a major initiative that enjoys both Republican and Democratic support.