Energy lobbyist: Keystone an ‘early test’ of Obama's pro-oil stance

The head of the oil industry’s biggest trade group put fresh political pressure on President Obama Thursday to approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said the decision will be a bellwether of Obama’s campaign-season backing for oil-and-gas development.

“It will be one of the early tests, early questions of ... whether his actions will match is words,” Gerard told reporters. “We are hopeful, but that will be one of the early tests for the president.”

The fate of TransCanada’s proposed pipeline, which would bring oil from Alberta’s tar sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries, is shaping up as a major post-election battle. Environmentalists have scheduled a Nov. 18 demonstration at the White House against the project.

A Mitt Romney victory would have been a big win for pipeline advocates, as he had repeatedly pledged to approve the cross-border project on “day one” if elected.

But pipeline advocates are expressing confidence that the White House — which plans a decision on a cross-border permit in the first quarter of 2013 — will also go their way.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday that he’s optimistic that the Obama administration will give Keystone a green light, according to Reuters.

Lobbying giant Patton Boggs, in a post-election analysis circulated Wednesday, similarly predicted that the State Department, which handles the pipeline application review, will endorse the project.

“With TransCanada having developed a new route through Nebraska that is likely to receive broad support in the state, we expect the State Department to complete its ongoing review of the application and to make the necessary national interest determination in favor of the project in the first quarter of 2013,” the analysis states.

Environmentalists strongly oppose Keystone because of greenhouse gas emissions from extracting and burning oil sands, forest damage from the massive projects and fear of spills along the pipeline route.

Business groups and a number of unions strongly back the project, calling it a way to boost U.S. energy security and create jobs.