Other view: Embrace pragmatism, build Keystone XL
The Obama administration's dilemma about whether to approve building the Keystone XL oil pipeline is coming down to a simple choice: Does the president embrace pragmatism or symbolism?
In the wake of the U.S. State Department's finding Jan. 31 that the 1,179-mile pipeline from west-central Canada to Nebraska is unlikely to alter climate change, President Barack Obama should embrace pragmatism and signal to the rest of his administration that he supports construction.
Doing so could help this proposal, already under federal study for five years, get through the eight federal agencies still examining it.
While each agency has its own role to fulfill, the State Department's final environmental assessment found no major environmental objections, which includes the standard Obama himself mentioned in June, that he would back the project if this report showed it "does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem."
As international news reports have noted, the assessment determined denying the project would have no impact on climate change because oil extraction in Alberta will continue. Producers will simply use other means -- namely rail -- to transport their product to markets.
In fact, the report even indicated using rail instead of the pipeline could increase greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent or more. Couple that with the horrific rail accidents lately involving oil trains in North Dakota and Quebec, and safety also becomes a primary reason to build the pipeline.
The $5.4 billion pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to get oil to Texas and the Gulf Coast.
The project is expected to create 1,950 annual construction jobs in those states and contribute about $3.4 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product. It would generate about 50 jobs once in operation. And not to be overlooked, it would mean America's importing of oil could come from its peaceful neighbor, not violent places such as the Middle East.
All those reasons are why Obama should back the pipeline.
Doing the opposite -- rejecting it -- simply puts political symbolism misleadingly ahead of a sound policy. How so? Environmentalists will cheer Obama for a "victory" in the battle to curb climate change even though his administration's own environmental assessment shows that's not the case.
Finding reasonable replacements to fossil fuels is a worthy and important search. But it's also a long and difficult one, which makes pragmatism today an essential component of this nation's energy policies.