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Sean Hackbarth A man in a t-shirt supporting the Keystone XL pipeline at a Laborers' International Union of North America rally.A man in a t-shirt supporting the Keystone XL pipeline at a Laborers' International Union of North America rally. Photo credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

In the shadow of President Obama’s expected veto, Keystone XL pipeline supporters continued advocating for the energy infrastructure project.

Terry O'Sullivan, president of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), a long-time backer of the pipeline, lambasted the President and Congressional Democrats for distorting the approval process and “cowardly politicking”:

To back up his expected veto, the President has correctly stated that there is “a well-established process in place” to consider approval of major infrastructure projects such as the Keystone XL Pipeline. What he didn’t say is that he and too many job-killing Democrats have perverted that process.

We remain hopeful that this lifeline to good careers and energy independence will be built. If it is, it won’t be due to a legitimate review process for pipelines – it will be because it managed to survive a destructive distortion of the approval process and cowardly politicking.

Joining O’Sullivan are 24 Republican governors who sent a letter to President Obama, asking him to sign the bill:

With one stroke of a pen, you have the power to give thousands of Americans the shot at a good-paying job that will help them provide for their families and get ahead in a tight economy. Approval would also demonstrate a sincere interest from your Administration in building bipartisan support for a truly all-of-the-above energy policy, and strengthen our economic relationship with Canada. Alternatively, you also have the power to veto the jobs, economic growth, and increased energy security the Keystone XL  pipeline represents.

The bipartisan support reflected by labor unions and Republican leaders is seen in polling on the Keystone XL pipeline. A December 2014 Fox News poll found that majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents think the Keystone XL pipeline should be built. Such broad-based support for the project has been the norm.

Karen Harbert, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy sums it up in a statement released after the House of Representatives approved the Keystone XL bill:

President Obama has a choice—side with the vast majority of the American people, more jobs, and more revenue, or say no to appease a vocal minority who are using this issue to wage a larger fight. It is time for the president to stop holding our economy back and to sign the bill, grant the permit, and greenlight jobs and investment in America.

According to the State Department, the Keystone XL pipeline will create more than 42,000 jobs, add $3.4 billion to the economy, and generate more than $5.2 billion in property taxes for local communities.

Sean Hackbarth Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA) hold up signs in support of the Keystone XL pipeline. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA) hold up signs in support of the Keystone XL pipeline. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

The House of Representatives has an important vote ahead of them Wednesday. They can accept the factually-challenged arguments of anti-energy zealots who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, or they can support the jobs and economic benefits that will come from it.

In the last few days, the Huffington Post piled on with two poorly-argued posts against the project.

First, Mark Weisbrot, co-director of Center for Economic and Policy Research, declared that “ditching” the pipeline would be a “no-brainer.”

In fact, the real “no-brainer” would be not approving it. Weisbrot writes:

The 1,179-mile pipeline extension would carry some of the world's dirtiest oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Stop right there. The truth is from a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, Canadian oil is similar to Venezuelan and Nigerian oil. Either that type of oil will come from a friendly neighbor like Canada, or it will come from less-friendly sources. That’s the choice.

Weisbrot continues:

Supporters of the pipeline have tried to argue that the oil from Canada's tar sands will be exploited anyway, with or without the pipeline. There wasn't much to that argument a year ago, but after a 50 percent fall in oil prices, there is nothing left of it. This oil is expensive to produce, and without a guarantee of cheap transportation, oil companies are not going to invest in expanding production in the 170-billion barrel reserves of Canada's tar sands.

The truth is oil price volatility isn’t stopping development. BloombergBusiness’ Matthew Philips writes, that oil sands production is more akin to mining. “An oil sands project, once up and running, can continue to chug along, even in the face of lower prices, since its costs are spread out over a decade or more,” he writes. Philips then notes that new production isn’t letting up:

A total of 14 new oil sands projects in Canada are scheduled to start next year with a combined capacity of 266,000 barrels a day, according to data published by Oilsands Review. That’s 36 percent more than were started in 2014. Since most of those investments have already been made, those projects are probably safe. Even for projects that are only partially paid for, investors will still probably be loath to stop halfway.

Next, we have Tom Steyer, bankroller of all things anti-Keystone. He argued that the pipeline is a “bad deal.” Ironically while griping that pipeline proponents toss out “tired talking points,” he throws out a misleading talking point of his own that only a few dozen permanent jobs along will be created.

Steyer, the supposedly savvy investor, ignores the thousands of construction jobs and local economic development the pipeline will create. Only this isn’t a talking point. It’s based on the construction of the southern leg of the pipeline.  Southern Methodist University's Maguire Energy Institute found that in Oklahoma and Texas, the project resulted in

Over $5.7 billion in new economic activity. Over 42,000 person years of new employment. Over $217 million in additional state and local taxes.

Terry O'Sullivan, General President of Labors International Union of North America (LIUNA), hasn't taken lightly to Steyer and others (including the President) disparaging the thousands of "temporary" construction jobs the Keystone XL pipeline will generate. In a 2014 Washington Post op-ed, O'Sullivan pushed back at Steyer [emphasis mine]:

It's not completely surprising that a hedge-fund manager would fail to understand the kitchen-table economics of a pipeline or its value to working people. Or that construction work is, by nature, temporary and that millions of construction workers lead middle-class lives, own houses and put their children through college by moving from one union construction job to the next.

And in a letter to House Members in January, O'Sullivan added:

Regardless of the lies and mischaracterization of construction jobs as somehow being inferior because of the temporary nature of the industry, this legislation is a jobs bill for the thousands of union construction workers that will build this Pipeline.

The State Department concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline will create 42,000 jobs with minimal environmental impact.

When voting, Members of Congress can either side with facts or fiction.

Tell your Representative to support the Keystone XL pipeline.

Ian Wagreich Arkansas Ultra Supercritical Coal Plant Technology Faces Extinction

It is no secret that affordable and reliable energy is the backbone of our nation's economy, enabling businesses and industry to grow and produce high-paying jobs for American workers. 

Much less appreciated, however, is the degree to which technological innovation is making U.S. energy resources cleaner than ever, without sacrificing affordability.

There is no better example of this than Southwestern Electric Power Company's (SWEPCO) John W. Turk Power Plant in western Arkansas. Operational in 2012, the ultra-supercritical coal plant burns 180,000 fewer tons of coal and produces 320,000 fewer tons of carbon dioxide annually, making it 15% more efficient than any other coal-powered plant.

Sean Hackbarth  Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.Sections of pipe sit on the ground in Atoka, Oklahoma. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

It’s been over one year since it was released, and EPA finally weighed in on the State Department’s environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline, the one that concludes that it will create 42,000 jobs with minimal environmental impact.

EPA argues, “Given the recent variability in oil prices, it is important to revisit these conclusions.”

In other words, there should be more delays in approving the pipeline, if not a rejection.

Here are a few observations:

First, when the application for the permit for the pipeline was first submitted in 2008 oil prices were actually lower than they are today, but you didn’t hear a peep from EPA about that fact.

Second, it's entertaining to see opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline (and oil in general) cheering lower oil prices.

Third, I share the same frustration with Reason’s Ronald Bailey who writes “Why not let the builders of the pipeline decide whether or not it is economic to construct?” Studies have found that’s the “multi-billion-dollar, privately financed infrastructure” project is environmentally safe and will add to the economy. To any ordinary person, that means building it is in the national interest.

So what should we make of EPA’s comments?

Stephen Eule at the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy calls them, “very weak beer,” because they ignore the fact that not all oil is the same, and that Canadian oil sands crude is similar to oil imported from other countries. He explained:

What EPA overlooks—whether consciously or not—is that crude oil from Canada backs out crudes from other suppliers that have equally high life cycle GHGs. Our refiners along the Gulf Coast are geared to processing heavy, sour crudes, so if they’re not using Canadian crudes, they’re using other crudes with similar characteristics.

This chart confirms that Canadian crude is a substitute for other types of heavy crude. As the U.S. imported more Canadian oil, imports from Nigeria and Venezuela declined.


eia_nigeria_venezuela_canada_imports.png Oil imports to the U.S. from Nigeria, Venezuela, and Canada. Oil imports to the U.S. from Nigeria, Venezuela, and Canada.

In addition, oil from all three of these countries generates a similar amount of greenhouse gas emissions, as this chart from a 2014 Congressional Research Service report shows.

crs_oil_ghg_800px.jpg Greenhouse gas emissions estimates for global crude resources. Greenhouse gas emissions estimates for global crude resources.

Eule concludes:

Killing the Keystone XL pipeline just means we would have to rely on imports of heavy crude oils with similar life cycle GHGs from suppliers that are not as stable or reliable as Canada. Not a very appealing prospect.

Sean Hackbarth Alberta's Premier Jim Prentice speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.Alberta's Premier Jim Prentice speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Photo credit: Ian Wagreich / © 2015 U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

You may not be aware, but Alberta, Canada is America’s number one oil supplier.  In a speech at the U.S. Chamber, Jim Prentice, Alberta’s Premier, said:

Alberta ships 2.5 million barrels of oil a day to the US. We are the largest supplier of crude oil to the United States of America. We contribute 26 percent of all American imports.

In comparison, oil imports from Saudi Arabia were slightly more than 1 million barrels a day in November 2015.

top-u-s-oil-suppliers-oil-supplied_chartbuilder_800px.png Top U.S. oil suppliers Top U.S. oil suppliers

Nearly all Alberta’s oil comes from its oil sands with much it coming into the U.S. by pipelines.

So it’s no surprise that the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline is at the top of Premier Prentice’s mind.

“This project is in the national interest of our two countries,” Prentice said and explained:

The oil it would carry is produced in my province under environmental standards that are at least as high as those that apply to oil produced in the United States —and much, much higher than those that apply in other countries that are allowed to land their oil in the US market without interference.

The US has historically addressed its energy security issues via a policy of diversity of supply — facilitating and supporting open markets for energy trade and the construction of infrastructure to facilitate the import of oil from multiple suppliers.

Canada has been one of those suppliers. Proudly so.

This is what has made the Keystone delay and uncertainty so confusing to Canadians.

Prentice emphasized, “the energy relationship shared by our two nations is much bigger than Keystone.”

Nevertheless, “We need to enhance and continue to invest in the network of pipelines and transmission lines that knit our energy economy together.”

Doing so will create jobs, Prentice explained:

Last month, for example, I attended the grand opening of Enbridge’s Flanagan South I Seaway pipeline.

That pipeline, which stretches nearly 600 miles from Illinois to Oklahoma, is a vital link in the web connecting Canadian producers with American consumers.

600,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude oil now flow through Flanagan South and on through the expanded Seaway pipeline to American refineries along the Gulf Coast.

This creates American jobs. Permanent jobs. Refinery jobs.

The State Department had concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline will create 42,000 jobs.