Keystone pipeline backers say Snowden bolsters case

The Institute for Energy Research, a conservative advocacy group, made a similar point.

“The latest development in Edward Snowden's global search for asylum may well end up in Venezuela, a longtime supplier of crude oil to U.S. refiners and an increasingly hostile regime to American interests,” said Benjamin Cole, a spokesman for the group, which includes fossil fuel interests among its backers.

“Once again, the president's refusal to permit the Keystone XL pipeline has made America weaker, with the strange reality that we are yet dependent on Venezuela, sending billions of dollars to that country for oil, and ostensibly funding the flight of Edward Snowden,” he added.

U.S. imports from Venezuela have generally been declining for more than a decade, but the country remains a substantial supplier.

Canada provides more oil to the U.S. than any other foreign nation by far, and Saudi Arabia and Mexico are ahead of Venezuela as well, federal data shows.

The asylum offer is one of several recent events that could shake up the political and lobbying battle over Keystone.

President Obama in late June said he would not approve TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline if it “significantly exacerbates” carbon emissions.

“The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward,” Obama said in comments vague enough to spur dispute over whether he made approval more likely or less likely.

On Saturday, a train carrying crude oil in Quebec derailed and caused multiple deaths, an accident that’s quickly spurring new scrutiny of the safety of crude-by-rail as an alternative to pipelines.