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Obama Administration Once Approved a Pipeline Just Like Keystone XL

Something to think about after the Senate failed to override President Obama’s Keystone XL veto is that not long ago, pipelines weren’t tied up in regulatory limbo and the focus of anti-energy advocates.

Ken Cohen, Exxon Mobile’s vice president of public and government affairs, looks at a pipeline approved by the Obama administration that does the same thing Keystone XL will do–move Canadian oil sands crude [emphasis mine]:

Consider that the original Keystone pipeline took 693 days to approve. The current Keystone XL application has languished for 2,356 days and counting.

Then there’s the Alberta Clipper pipeline, another cross-border pipeline whose comparison to Keystone XL should leave many people scratching their heads.

That pipeline took 829 days to approve.  That’s about one-third as long as the Keystone XL review.

The Alberta Clipper pipeline moves oil from Alberta to Wisconsin.

Alberta Clipper pipeline map.

Alberta Clipper pipeline map. Image credit: Enbridge.

Cohen quotes the State Department’s 2009 announcement of the Alberta Clipper’s approval [emphasis his]:

The addition of crude oil pipeline capacity between Canada and the United States will advance a number of strategic interests of the United States. .… Canada is a stable and reliable ally and trading partner of the United States, with which we have free trade agreements which augment the security of this energy supply.

Approval of the permit sends a positive economic signal, in a difficult economic period, about the future reliability and availability of a portion of United States’ energy imports, and in the immediate term, this shovel-ready project will provide construction jobs for workers in the United States.

“The same arguments that prevailed for Alberta Clipper in 2009 apply even more to Keystone XL today,” Cohen writes.

[In 2013, I broke down in more detail how the State Department’s rationale squared with arguments for the Keystone XL pipeline.]

Remember, this is President Obama’s State Department.

Its attitude toward Keystone XL is a mirror image of what it was toward the Alberta Clipper even though they have similar benefits.

Instead of appreciating how Canadian oil sands crude improves U.S. energy security, the president gets called out for misleading the public that oil through the Keystone XL pipeline will be exported from the U.S.

And instead of applauding the jobs what will be created by the pipeline, the president considers some construction jobs better than others.

What’s the difference between then and now? Politics.

Organizations are cynically using the Keystone XL pipeline as a symbol to gin up anger, expand membership rolls, and raise money to push a “not here or anywhere” anti-energy agenda.

Not that this opposition is stopping oil sands productionRecord volumes of oil sands crude are being refined in the U.S. while President Obama feeds the hopes of activists that he’ll reject a project that his State Department says will have few negative effects on the environment.

Going back to the Senate’s veto override attempt, Karen Harbert, President and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, released a statement:

In an era when Congress can’t agree on much, the Keystone XL pipeline has stood out because it has such strong, bipartisan support.  Unfortunately, pipeline supporters were a few votes short of the super-majority needed to overturn President Obama’s veto, but the President should not ignore this strong level of support when he makes his final decision on the pipeline.

Meet Sean Hackbarth @seanhackbarth Follow@uschamber

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of an oil terminal in Hardisty, Alberta. Photo credit: Brett Gundlock/Bloomberg.