By Senator Wicker
In today's stagnant economy, there is no room for missed opportunities. Fourteen million Americans are still unemployed, and they rightfully want to know: "Where are the jobs?"
The plan for a pipeline to transport oil from Canada and the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana to domestic refineries could answer that question right away with thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic investment. Instead, it appears the project has been postponed for political reasons.
"Punting' on Job Creation
The Obama Administration announced last month that it would not decide on a permit for the long-awaited Keystone XL pipeline until more alternative routes are studied and an additional environmental analysis is completed. This extended review is expected to take until early 2013 -- conveniently after next year's election, when pressure from environmental groups can no longer imperil the President's reelection bid.
The 1,700-mile-long project, which would carry 700,000 barrels of oil per day to Texas refineries, has already undergone two environmental evaluations and three years of review involving more than a dozen federal agencies. It had been widely anticipated that the administration would approve the Keystone pipeline before the end of the year.
Newspapers across the country are calling the President's sidestep a "political punt" and an "insult to [the] jobless." The delay of a truly "shovel-ready" opportunity amounts to an outright dismissal of our urgent need to put Americans back to work now. TransCanada's $7 billion pipeline would create an estimated 20,000 new jobs immediately and many more in the future. Unlike the President's $447 billion new stimulus proposal, no taxpayer dollars would be required.
A Stable and Reliable Trading Partner
We should not let political maneuvering jeopardize potential job creation or the integrity of America's relationship with our largest trading partner. After the State Department deferred the pipeline decision, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada would be increasing efforts to promote its cost-competitive energy resources to Asian markets. In other words, the oil will go somewhere, if not to our refineries. President Obama's delay of the Keystone project could be China's gain.
The global demand for energy resources is not likely to diminish anytime soon. Strengthening trade with stable and reliable energy partners like Canada can complement and encourage greater oil production here at home. An overdependence on resources from volatile regions of the world -- such as the Middle East and Venezuela -- is bad for our economy, national security, and the price at the pump.
A Comprehensive Energy Strategy
Last week, I co-sponsored the North American Energy Security Act requiring the State Department to act swiftly on the Keystone project. The legislation would affirm a national commitment to increasing energy investment, safeguard the rights of states along the pipeline route, and ensure that the permit includes environmental protections.
Productive trade with Canada is only one part of the long-term strategy we need to increase American energy independence and create jobs. Much like the fate of the Keystone pipeline, our domestic energy production has stalled because the Obama Administration is slow-walking the permitting process. With unemployment stuck close to 9 percent, we should be focusing on every opportunity we have to put Americans back to work -- regardless of what is best for the election calendar.