Barack Obama Makes a Smart Choice On Keystone XL Pipeline

President Barack Obama has endured criticism from both sides of the aisle when he rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline project. But he was correct in rejecting TransCanada’s bid to build the pipeline. It is all part of a greater strategy that includes higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards — a policy intended to improve the fuel efficiency of cars and light tracks — as well as an increase in environmental responsibility, and creating meaningful jobs in the United States, and not Canada.

Supporters of the Keystone pipeline claim that the influx of available oil would help increase our energy security. At best, this is only a short-term solution. A more long-term solution is to increase CAFE standards on cars and light trucks, from 35.5 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2016 to 54.4 MPG by 2025. Making more energy efficient vehicles would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The production of batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles would create more permanent jobs for the United States. It would also reduce our dependence on oil from countries and regimes that wish to do us harm.  Imagine, if you will, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s continued threats to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. With the reduction of oil consumption, regimes like the one in Iran cannot hold the world hostage by threatening to cut off a major oil supply route. When CAFE standards were first introduced in the 1970s by President Jimmy Carter, a result was an oil surplus in the 1980s. Prices per barrel fell worldwide because oil reserves were not as scarce, and that resulted in lower prices at the pump. Less use of oil due to higher CAFE standards, and lower prices for gas, coupled with higher MPG for vehicles means less trips to the gas station — an absolute victory for the consumer, in addition to our energy and national security.

Proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline say that the project will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and infuse $7 billion into a fragile U.S. economy, all without significant damage to the environment. This argument is wrong on all accounts. The jobs that would be created by this project would be temporary construction jobs. According to TransCanada’s own data they submitted to the State Department, only 2,500 to 4,650 non-permanent construction and manufacturing jobs would be created. Another jobs claim that has been refuted is that 119,000 jobs will be created in Kansas and Oklahoma. You cannot create jobs that have already been created; the section of pipeline TransCanada is referring to has already been built. Manufacturing will not benefit either because American Steel was not even used in construction of the pipeline. A significant amount of the pipeline has been built in anticipation of a decision.  The public claim made by both TransCanada and supporters of Keystone XL that 119,000 jobs will be created is based on wrong assumptions and flimsy evidence. What of the $7 billion that is supposed to be injected into the economy? In a brief to the State Department, TransCanada said that only $3 to $4 billion would be added,

The type of oil that would have been transported in the pipeline is Tar Sands oil. Tar Sands oil contains more greenhouse gas emissions than crude oil. Greenhouse gasses do more to contribute to climate change, according to environmental scientists. Another environmental factor to consider is that part of the pipeline would have been built both over and through the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest source of freshwater in the Midwest for both drinking and agriculture. The pipeline reaches its final destination in the already environmentally damaged Gulf Coast. An accident anywhere along the pipeline would have catastrophic effects on the environment, not to mention the effect on our food supply. In terms of weighing the benefits of adding 4,500 temporary jobs to the economy versus the potential damage to the environment, the President ultimately decided it was not worth the risk.

By increasing the CAFE Standards and rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, Obama is seeking to continue our momentum towards a green and sustainable growth economically. In 2007, Candidate Obama said, "Let's be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil." By siding with both the environment and sound energy security instead of Big Oil, our president made the correct choice and put the United States on a path that puts us all in a more secure world.

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