Keystone: Obama ignores facts


Having rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama recently paraded into Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference like a triumphant Julius Caesar conquering Gaul. The President grandiosely proclaimed that he looked forward to developing a “framework to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.”

Unfortunately, without Keystone XL, that planet will include a United States deprived of thousands of new jobs, billions in economic growth, and the chance to achieve true energy independence. And ironically, the planet will also have a worse environment.

President Obama’s reasons for rejecting Keystone XL were laughable. The president alleged that Keystone XL “would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy.”

But his own State Department has consistently determined otherwise. The initial construction phase would create 42,000 jobs. The pipeline itself would generate $3.4 billion in new economic activity.

The president also claimed that building Keystone XL would not bring America any closer to energy security.

But expanding our trade relationship with Canada, a loyal ally, would go a long way toward establishing long-term energy self-sufficiency for North America. Thanks to the U.S. fracking revolution, domestic oil and natural gas production is booming. Projections show that Keystone XL would have ensured that North America could satisfy all of our country’s liquid fuel needs within a dozen years.

President Obama coupled this baseless claim with yet another misleading assertion, one that sounds like it came from a late night college bull session: energy security can only be achieved with a stronger commitment to environmentally sound practices.

Yet every possible question about environmental impact has been thoroughly studied and effectively addressed by five State Department reviews — all of which concluded that the pipeline would have a negligible effect on the environment. Moreover, the pipeline would have been built in accordance with 59 additional safety standards exceeding regulatory requirements.

One wonders if the President knows he took longer to decide if a company could build a pipeline than it took America to win WWII.

Worst of all, failing to build Keystone XL will actually hurt the environment. That’s because transporting oil via pipeline is much safer than via rail or truck. Indeed, oil shipments by rail are nearly five times more likely to experience spills or incidents than those by pipeline.

Shipments by pipeline also produce fewer emissions than alternative shipping methods. Had President Obama approved Keystone XL’s permit when it was first submitted seven years ago, he would have spared the planet 8.8 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions — the equivalent of eliminating 1.8 million cars from the road.

What makes the whole episode even more strange is that apart from the rejection of Keystone XL, President Obama actually has an unfalteringly pro-pipeline record. On his watch, more than 12,000 miles of pipeline have been built in the United States, mostly underground. That’s the equivalent of ten Keystone XL pipelines.

Clearly, the president’s opposition to Keystone XL isn’t about the policy merits. With this decision, he has chosen to appease the environmentalist left, which decided to make killing this pipeline its signature priority.

Keystone XL was a tangible pathway to job creation, economic prosperity and a healthier environment. Unfortunately for us, those considerations took a back seat to cynical politics.

[Michael James Barton is the energy advisor at ARTIS Research and speaks around the country on energy and energy security matters. He previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon. Follow him at]