Columnist: Keystone XL makes economic, environmental sense |

Columnist: Keystone XL makes economic, environmental sense

James Kellogg

Last month President Obama vetoed a Senate bill that would have finally allowed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. His obstruction hinders the creation of jobs and jeopardizes an important source of reliable energy for the U.S. It’s representative of the Obama administration’s overall energy policy, which caters to environmental special interests and dismisses the need for economic growth and prosperity. That’s bad news for Americans and the environment.

Canada is our largest supplier of oil, providing more than 20 percent of U.S. imports. The Keystone XL pipeline would run 1,180 miles from oil sands in Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. It has the same origin and destination as an existing operational pipe called Keystone, but the XL takes a more direct route. The XL would have 50 percent more capacity than the existing pipeline. The south section of the XL pipeline, running to the Gulf of Mexico, was opened last year.

The Keystone XL pipeline has been a contentious issue for the past six years. Because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border, a presidential permit is required before construction. That’s been the inroad for Obama and Democrats to assert their ideology. They claim increasing crude oil imports from Canada’s oil sands will increase greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbate global warming.

Environmentalists have rallied opposition to Keystone XL because “it’s tough to drive people into the streets over EPA carbon rules,” said Politico energy reporter Elana Schor. “But Keystone is a piece of steel … it’s much more evocative and emotional for environmentalists.”

President Obama has capitalized on that emotion by never mentioning that the State Department has commissioned five major studies of the Keystone project. Each determined that the pipeline would pose minimal environmental risk and have virtually no effect on global warming.

According to the State Department’s Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the difference in net carbon emissions will be negligible with or without the Keystone XL. That’s because Canadian oil sands will be developed regardless of how the oil is transported.

Pipelines are also the safest mode of transporting oil and gas in terms of spill and accidents. The Keystone XL project will utilize world-class technology with an industry-leading data collection and monitoring system. After careful study, every state the pipeline will run through has approved the project.

In short, the federal government and pertinent states have established that Keystone XL is environmentally safe, a non-factor for increasing global emission of greenhouse gases and a boon for the economy. In fact, nearly 1,000 companies from 47 states are already involved in developing Canada’s oil sands. Today, U.S. companies control about 30 percent of production in Canada’s oil sands region.

Energy is a key building block for economic growth and stability. Today, refineries across the Midwest rely on Canadian oil as the primary feedstock to produce gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. This improves operating costs for the refineries. It also protects against supply disruptions caused by everything from storms in the Gulf of Mexico to political unrest in oil-producing regions around the world.

Whether Democrats and environmentalists like it or not, oil and gas will be produced in remote areas in the north. Opponents may take satisfaction in raising the cost of energy in the U.S. and discouraging consumption, but their actions are hypocritical when it comes to saving the environment.

More expensive energy correlates to higher unemployment and lower economic growth. Environmental quality only improves when economic growth leads to prosperity. The correlation between an increased standard of living and a commitment to environmental stewardship is irrefutable. It’s no coincidence that the U.S. is the most environmentally conscious nation in the world.

Global demand for oil is on the rise, and Canada’s oil sands will be developed with or without the Keystone pipeline. The real question is will our political leaders allow the United States to benefit from a reliable energy resource and a friendly relationship with our top trading partner. And where else will this crude be better managed than a high-tech pipeline to the safest and most efficient refineries that exist?

Overall, public attitude toward building Keystone XL is favorable because it makes economic and environmental sense. By approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project, President Obama has an opportunity to secure part of America’s energy future and strengthen a partnership with an important ally. That keeps Americans on the path to prosperity, and that’s very good news for the environment.

James D. Kellogg is a water resource engineer and the author of “Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller.” Look for the novel on and visit or email

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