President Obama on Friday announced his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline project. Since the beginning of this debate, seven years ago, everyone generally knew of the president’s opposition to oil, gas and coal, but no one dreamed he would hold a pipeline permit for over 2,000 days, then reject it with no data-based conclusions. When any president can hold a private construction permit for years, after it has been approved by every affected state, then reject the permit for political reasons, we have truly lost basic constitutional federalism.
A closer look at the president’s justification for the rejection demonstrates how much this administration thinks the American people will only listen to the platitudes, not check the facts:
Reason No. 1: The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy.
Apparently, a multi-billion dollar private investment into the American economy is not enough for the White House to approve. Even the State Department says the project would create 42,000 jobs while the pipeline was being built. Instead, the president says we should invest taxpayer dollars in infrastructure projects to create jobs. Certainly many of our roads and bridges are in dire need of repair; but how does the need for public funding for roads preclude allowing private investment in a pipeline infrastructure? Private-sector investments boost the economy, which is a win for infrastructure, the economy and the taxpayer.
Reason No. 2: The pipeline would not lower gas prices for American consumers.
Yes, gasoline prices are low, hovering around $2 a gallon in Oklahoma today, but why would the president suddenly declare that prices are low enough and there is no need for greater efficiency? Besides the fact that a pipeline from Canada isn’t about lowering gas prices, it’s about preventing prices from spiking in the future. When we purchase crude from Canada, it means we don’t purchase from the Middle East. I don’t know anyone who argued that the Keystone XL prices would lower gas prices, so it is odd that the President would argue that because it does not, he will not approve the project. Energy policy requires a long-term view to sustain our economy, which the president clearly fails to do.
Reason No. 3: Shipping crude oil into our country from unstable countries would not increase America’s energy security.
The president said, “What has increased America’s energy security is our strategy over the past several years to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels from unstable parts of the world.”
Though the first two reasons the White House espoused were hard to believe, this one is the most bizarre. The president stated that we should not buy oil from Canada because our national security demands we do not rely on oil purchases from “unstable” countries. Since the War of 1812 finished, our relationship with Canada has been pretty good. I am not sure why the White House would consider Canada “unstable.” Even if the president misspoke and he intended to state that we need to reduce our reliance on oil from the Middle East, his reason still makes no sense; to reduce our dependency on Middle East oil, we should produce more in America and buy more from Canada, not less.
Reason No. 4: Global leadership on climate change.
The president cited his concern that his position as a world leader on climate change would be diminished if he supported a pipeline project. Friday he said, “America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change. And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership.”
Actually, approving the Keystone XL would show that the president is willing to look at data, not emotion, for climate policy. A pipeline is one of the safest and lowest carbon-producing methods to transport crude oil. As the State Department found in its reviews of the project, the Canadian resources are likely to be developed — approving the pipeline would have given us some control of how safely its transported and use. Instead, we have ceded any say in the safety of its movement or use, shying away from any true leadership on the issue.
Despite its long statement on the topic, the administration has failed to make the case for how the Keystone XL pipeline project is any different than the other 19 crude oil cross-border pipelines currently operating in the United States. This decision will go down in history as a day when our president sided with special interests over the American people and our economy.
This is what happens when the federal government gets to choose projects based on the preferences of a few elites in Washington, D.C., rather than the free market and the preferences of the people. It’s essential to put into place time limits on federal permitting and a requirement to use data, not politics, to make decisions.
Lankford, R-Edmond, is Oklahoma’s junior senator.