Keystone XL Pipeline Becoming an Influential Political Issue

When you turn on the television or open the paper, it’s hard to avoid the non-stop coverage and buzz over the upcoming presidential election.  Americans everywhere are vetting the positions of Republican primary candidates and sizing them up against President Obama’s track record over the past four years.  Most of the political debate and discussion has centered on issues like taxes, Washington’s spending habits, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And like any presidential election in the past, energy policy will play a huge role in influencing voter’s decision on a candidate.

One energy topic that seems to fly under the radar and has potential to become a massive political issue in 2012 is the Keystone XL Pipeline.  The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed 1,700-mile pipeline system project that would transport more than 70,000 barrels of synthetic crude oil per day into the U.S. from the Athabasca Oil Sands in northeastern Canada.  On top of the much-needed surge in crude production, it is projected that the pipeline project would cost over $7 billion and will generate over 20,000 jobs during its construction phase and nearly 600,000 jobs by 2035.

At a time when energy prices are climbing, unemployment remains in the tank, and America continues its struggle to rebound from the Great Recession, approving a project like this should make common sense.  Unfortunately though, discussions over the project have little to do with job creation and the importance of buying crude oil from allies.  The Keystone project has become politically charged and has encountered much opposition from environmental groups.  Additionally, President Obama has done everything he can to delay the project until after the 2012 election.

The Transcanada Corporation proposed the Keystone pipeline in 2005.  It was only until 2010 that the U.S. Department of State extended the deadline for federal agencies to determine if the pipeline was in our national interest.  In November 2011, President Obama decided to postpone his decision to deny or approve the project until 2013.  Senate Republicans, however, decided to introduce legislation in late November to force the Administration to approve the pipeline project within 60 days, unless the president determined that the project is not in the best interest of the U.S.  The deadline for the President ends on February 21, 2012.

The Keystone project has garnered support from a wide variety of groups that usually do not see eye to eye.  The business community supports the project, as well as labor groups like the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department.  So the question still remains as to why the President wants to delay the project. Either a minute group of environmentalists have hijacked the project or it’s just a continuation of President Obama’s assault on the fossil fuel industry.

Most candidates running for public office mention the importance of decreasing our dependency on foreign oil.  Somehow, it always seems to make its way into the political discussion.  Even local candidates use the energy independence topic in their campaigns because it’s such a powerful message that resonates with every American.  Don’t be surprised if it becomes a major topic in the upcoming election.  As well, the Keystone pipeline will in no doubt become a central part of that discussion.



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