Well… we saw some progress this week. As you may have heard, the Democrats in the Senate have agreed to allow a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline. Even the less cynical people in Washington will readily admit that this is just a ploy to help out a vulnerable incumbent Democrat facing a runoff election for Senate next month. Regardless though, it’s a welcome development for a country tired of nothing getting done in Washington.
On Friday, we voted for the ninth time to approve the Keystone permit application. And as with previous votes, we had a few dozen Democrats join us. The Senate actually passed a non-binding version of Keystone back in 2013 with 17 Democrats joining all of the Republicans. There is no obvious reason that the result should be materially different this time.
Regardless, the President has indicated he will veto the bill. For some of us who have been working on this issue for a long time, it’s extremely hard to understand. It’s been six years since TransCanada requested a permit to build a section of pipeline connecting Canadian fields and American refineries. Four hundred miles on either end have already been completed – they just need permission to connect the two across the US / Canada border. The state of Nebraska, which would host the pipeline, has voted to approve it. There is overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress for it. The labor unions have cited the jobs it would create in why they support it. And the environmental impact study that the Obama administration required came back saying the impact would be minimal. And it’s easy to understand why.
The environmentalists who oppose Keystone, almost reflexively, say that construction of the pipeline would somehow cause a dramatic increase in carbon emissions. They say that drilling in the Canadian Tar Sands releases more greenhouse gasses than other drilling projects. But even if that’s true and even if that’s a concern that keeps you up at night, the drilling is going to keep taking place regardless of the pipeline. It’s just a question of whether the Canadians build a pipeline out to the west coast and ship the oil to an eager Chinese public or as they’ve more recently contemplated, build a pipeline to the east coast and transport the oil down to the Gulf on ships. Even though both of those options are less efficient (and therefore more expensive) they’ve been patiently waiting for six years for the Obama administration to act and they simply don’t have much choice any more.
All the while, the jobs that are depending on this project, modest though they may be, are going unfilled. Even in our local community, as some of you probably know, we are losing business that would likely result from completion of the pipeline. Our congressional district is home to one of the only metal foundries in the world that makes the giant pumps that are used in this sort of project. And there are situations like that all over this country.
The government can’t waive a magic wand and cause economic growth, but there are commonsense steps you can take to support it. This is one.
Instead, the President travels to China, sits down with their head of state and agrees to a deal in which the U.S. will voluntarily reduce its emissions by 28% by 2026 in exchange for the Chinese agreeing to stop increasingtheir emissions by 2030. In case it’s not obvious, our people are supposed to absorb the full cost of reducing these emissions while the Chinese keep building cheap power plants to fuel their growth for the next two decades. That decision is making the Chinese more competitive against us. The President’s job is to make us more competitive against the Chinese.
I understand the pressure that the President feels to pander to his base. That’s fine. He wanted to get himself reelected. I get that. But when it’s costing us good paying American jobs here at home…? When it makes the cost of fuel more expensive for American families who have to drive every day…? When China of all countries is reaping the benefits of our self-inflicted wounds?
There is a reason that support for the Keystone Pipeline is at 60% among the American people. There is a reason why it has overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. And there is also a reason why Harry Reid feels it’s critical to allow his Democrat candidate in Louisiana to distance herself from the President on this.
The reason is that the President is wrong on the policy with Keystone. Hopefully… some bipartisan cooperation in Congress can help turn him around.
In any case, if you have a minute, let me know what you think about Keystone or anything else we’ve got going on in Washington. You know I’m always happy to hear from you.