Another delay for Keystone XL

Editorial by Jack Ryan
Enterpise McComb Journal

The State Department took the path of least resistance on Friday, saying it would extend its review of the Keystone XL pipeline project to give other federal agencies more time to contribute their opinions to the debate.
It is a politically safe move for Democrats already facing tough midterm elections in an economy that continues to struggle. The State Department did not set a deadline for further comments, but most likely there will be no Keystone decision until after the November elections. That takes one controversial issue off the table.
Keystone XL proposes to send oil recovered from tar sands formations in Canada to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas. The pipeline must be approved by the government because it crosses America’s boundary with Canada.
However, there have been so many delays on approval of the project, both from the Obama administration and from opponents of the proposed route through Nebraska, that it’s pretty easy to read the tea leaves on this one.
The president has to decide whether obtaining all this foreign oil is in the national interest. Just a few years ago, that would have been a no-brainer. But things are different now.
The surge in domestic oil production, mostly through unconventional processes like hydraulic fracturing, have made the United States far less reliant on foreign oil than it used to be. The growth has been so stunning that by next year, the U.S. is likely to be the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, surpassing both Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Armed with this development, it will be no surprise if the president, in early 2015, rejects the Keystone proposal on the grounds that the country is producing so much of its own oil that it doesn’t need the Canadian imports.
That argument is flawed on two counts. One is that the American economy depends on plentiful, inexpensive energy. The more of it we can get, the better off we’ll be. To brush off the easy availability of so much oil from Canada, our neighbor and reliable ally, is courting the unexpected — not to mention requiring the U.S. to continue to buy oil from less reliable governments elsewhere.
The other flaw in rejecting Keystone is that it will give competitors, such as China, the opportunity to buy the oil. Canada’s eventually going to bring that oil to the surface and sell it; if the U.S. chooses not to buy it, the Canadians will find another customer.
This is one of those games of international intrigue that the U.S. used to play so well. After all, if we buy the Canadian oil, that means a competitor for global influence like China won’t get it. That’s two wins in one decision.
It could be that President Obama is simply waiting until after this fall’s elections to annoy his environmental supporters and approve the pipeline. But if that’s the case, he ought to do it now so that Democratic Senate candidates in active oil states like Louisiana can use it to their benefit.
The longer the delay (now five years), the less likely Keystone XL gets approved.