Government Bytes


America Needs Keystone Pipeline, Not Keystone Kops

by Brandon Greife / /

Rather than move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline – a projectthat would provide hundreds of thousands jobs (and barrels of oil) – President Obamahas turned into a Keystone Kop.

The Keystone Kops were a set of incompetent, fictionalpolicemen that starred in silent film comedies in the 20th century.Their slapstick humor had them constantly running feverishly in conflictingdirections, clumsily destroying anything in their path, grasping their bowlercaps in consternation, and generally looking confused. Which pretty much sumsup the Obama Administration’s response to the Keystone XL pipeline – unsure ofwhat to do and how to do it.

Rather than move forward with the project, which was firstproposed in 2008, but has been needlessly stuck in the permitting process, theObama Administration decided to do what it always does when facing a difficultdecision – punt. Yesterday, the Administration announcedit was going to review the route of the pipeline, effectively delaying anydecision until after the 2012 election.

The decision seems questionable in light of the regulatoryhoops that have already been jumped through to ensure the environmental safetyof the project.  As reportedby Bloomberg, “The State Department said its new study will supplement anenvironmental impact statement issued in August that found Keystone XL wouldcause “no significant” environmental damage provided that TransCanada complieswith U.S. law.”

Indeed, the impactstatement states that, the “DOS [Department of State] determined thatincorporation of the Special Conditions would result in a Project that wouldhave a degree of safety greater than any typically constructed domestic oilpipeline system under current regulations.”

Given the timing of the delay and the questionable basis,some have questioned whether the delay is purely political. By punting the Presidentavoids having to make a decision that would have angered one of his corepolitical constituencies, regardless of the position he took. Support thepipeline and risk the (misplaced) ire of the environmentalists, reject it andlose support from labor unions who realized the pipelines’ job-creatingpotential.

But while the political calculus was complicated, the economicmath was simple – Keystone Pipeline = Jobs + Secure Energy Source.

With the economic recovery continuing to sputter along atstall speed, it is sad that narrow political interests could derail a projectwith the potential to create thousands of jobs right away.

With nearly 1,000 business in 47 states already providingservices to the development of Canadian oil sands (which the pipeline willcarry to U.S. refineries), the U.S. is already intimately tied to theirsuccess. And yet, in true Keystone Kop fashion, we may have just shot ourselvesin the foot. Following announcement of the postponement, the pipeline’sdeveloper said, “If we have to delay too long, this project will not be viable.”

Construction of the Keystone XL, and the development ofCanadian oil sands that it would spur, would be a tremendous boon to oureconomy, both in terms of jobs and a secure supply of oil. But rather than dothe obvious thing – the Obama Administration is furiously running around, spinningits wheels, creating more problems than its solving. America needs the Keystonepipeline, not a return of the Keystone Kops.