Obama should OK Keystone pipeline

The benefits outweigh the risks

By The Mercury

President Barack Obama, who in January 2012 refused to approve the northern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline, ought to do so now and get this important project going.

The pipeline has been controversial ever since advocates sought to extend it from Canada’s tar sands to Texas. Thus it’s not a surprise that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. State Department have been at odds over the project.

The EPA has taken issue with the State Department’s most recent analysis of the pipeline’s environmental impact, calling it “insufficient.” Among other things, the EPA wants more in-depth analysis of the risks of oil spills and alternative routes for the pipeline. Those are similar to items it sought two years ago. The State Department, which has authority over the pipeline because it crosses a U.S. border, said it plans additional analysis. And though environmentalists disagree, it stands by its draft conclusion that the pipeline won’t create significant environmental impacts and would have little impact on climate change.

A risk-free pipeline is a fantasy. Appropriately, considerable measures have been taken to minimize the risks of this project. For example, TransCanada Corp., which is developing the pipeline, changed the pipeline’s route through Nebraska to satisfy that state’s understandable concerns about the Ogallala aquifer. In January, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, who opposed the initial route, told the Obama administration that with the route change, he supports the pipeline.

When completed, the 2,000-mile-long pipeline would convey more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to Texas. And it would do so as safely as and less expensively than shipping the oil by truck or rail.

Much of the pipeline has already been built. Completing the northern section, which requires President Obama’s approval, would create nearly 4,000 jobs, and even if they’re not permanent, they’ll help American families and give a boost to the regional economy. Politically, rejecting the pipeline would amount to an insult to our closest ally and trading partner. And while it could sour relations between our countries, it wouldn’t prevent Canada from shipping its oil overseas.

The pipeline is not an ideal project; oil, a fossil fuel, is harmful to the environment. Trouble is, the world still runs on oil and will for some time. That time could be shortened with greater investment in alternative sources of energy.

In the meantime, however, this pipeline would serve an important purpose and do so with minimal impact on its immediate environment or on global warming.

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