'For the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: in 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East,' That was now President Obama, speaking as a candidate for the office on August 29, 2008.
It's been a goal of Presidents for decades, ever since the Arab Oil Embargo and that graphic demonstration of just how hostage we had become to the oil producing nations of the Middle East. Somehow, though, it has always eluded us. Despite our best efforts, despite our best intentions, we remain today dangerously dependent on sources of energy under the control of distant, often distasteful regimes. Again and again we are compelled to spend precious blood and treasure to safeguard oil fields and oil production in the Middle East.
Except now, stunningly, we find ourselves in the position of apparently being able to end that dependence once and for all. And the Obama Administration, despite the President's words, appears poised to squander the opportunity.
The Canadian company TransCanada wants to build a 1900 mile pipeline, the Keystone XL, from the oilfields of Western Canada to the oil refineries of the American Gulf coast. This pipeline would be able to move 15 million barrels of oil a month. A study by EnSys Energy, commissioned by the US Department of Energy, estimates that construction of this pipeline, in conjunction with efforts to reduce demand, could effectively end US dependence on Middle Eastern oil by 2030.
That's right, construction of this pipeline could effectively end US dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
It could also produce other, immediate, tangible benefits to the US economy. Construction of the pipeline would require the hiring of 20,000 workers. Another 100,000 jobs would be created indirectly. An estimated $20 billion dollars would be pumped into the US economy as a result of the project.
Despite all this, the Obama Administration is dragging its feet on the project. TransCanada applied for permission to begin construction three years ago. The Department of State, which must approve the project because it crosses an international boundary, is still pondering the matter and, in fact, ordered another round of environmental review and comment just a few months ago. The House of Representative meanwhile is pushing a bill to force the Administration to make a decision by this fall.
I don't mean to imply that environmental concerns have no validity. A project of this magnitude should be studied and, when and if allowed to go forward, government should strictly monitor its progress. But, environmental concerns and bureaucratic inertia cannot be allowed to trump national security and efforts to revive our flagging economy.
Building the Keystone XL pipeline will not end our dependence on oil and it will not solve the problem of climate change. It will pump huge quantities of cash into an economy that desperately needs a boost. It will put tens of thousands of Americans to work in a country whose unemployment rate is barely under ten percent. And it will mean that the next time there's a crisis in the Middle East or South Asia one of the considerations we will not have to wrestle with will be our own need for Middle Eastern oil.
I'd say that's more than enough to justify an end to foot dragging and a sense of urgency.