Keystone XL is 'overwhelmingly' in US interest, supporters say

The essential question the US Department of State must address as it considers the Keystone XL pipeline’s cross-border permit application is whether the project is in the national interest of the US, several of the project’s supporters said. All available evidence shows that the overwhelming answer is yes, they told reporters at a press conference before the final public hearing on the project.

“It’s the biggest shovel-ready project that’s awaiting approval,” American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard said. TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to the US Gulf Coast would create 20,000 US jobs almost immediately and ultimately double US imports of Canadian crude oil, he said during an Oct. 7 briefing at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

“We don’t need a Super Committee. We don’t need congressional approval. We’re ready to move ahead now,” Gerard maintained.

NAM Pres. Jay Timmons said the latest US Department of Labor report that unemployment nationwide remained about 9% in September as 13,000 manufacturing jobs were lost makes Obama administration approval of the Keystone XL project that much more urgent. “We’d like to start getting those jobs back,” he declared.

Terrence O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborer’s International Union of North America, said the project’s approval would do more than give jobs to thousands of construction workers. “It could create a new generation of workers with specialized skills,” he said. “Our country needs to do more of this—match men and women who need work with work that needs to be done.”

Signal to producers

The proposed pipeline is an integral part of a US and Canadian crude oil production renaissance that the National Petroleum Council said could lead to a doubling of North American production by 2035, according to Lucian Pugliaresi, president of Energy Policy Research Foundation Inc. “The pipeline itself would be a signal to Canadian producers that the United States is an open market,” he said. “Roadblocks would send a different message.”

TransCanada Pres. Russ Girling said, “If Keystone XL is approved, TransCanada can begin to put 20,000 Americans to work right away. That’s 13,000 construction jobs—work for pipe-fitters, welders, electricians, heavy equipment operators, and more—and 7,000 manufacturing jobs. From the pipe being manufactured in Arkansas, pump motors made in Ohio, and transformers built in Pennsylvania, workers in almost state in the US would benefit from Keystone.”

Girling said independent studies suggest that the $7 billion project also would create another 118,000 indirect jobs, inject $20 billion into the US economy, and pay more than $5 billion in taxes to local counties over the project’s lifetime. Girling said the 1,600-mile system would be built with the strongest steel and highest safety standards of any North American pipeline, with 16,000 sensors monitoring it 24 hr/day, 365 days/year, and data refreshed every 5 sec. “If there is a problem, automatic shut-off valves can be activated in minutes,” he said.

TransCanada did not anticipate such intense opposition to the Keystone XL project, he said. “The last time we permitted a pipeline across the border, it took about 20 months,” Girling said. “I did not expect it to become such a lightning rod for a debate between alternative and fossil fuels. This is simply a pipeline from suppliers to refiners, nothing more.”

The system’s potential contribution as a transportation link to new US oil resources could be crucial as North American production grows, Gerard said. That potential new production “is more than a renaissance, it’s a game-changer,” he continued. “One study suggests that combined North and South American production eventually could change the Middle East’s relative importance to world supplies.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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