Billionaire Warren Buffett said this week he supports the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, inserting himself in a politically divisive debate on the project.
"I’m not an expert, but it certainly seems like it makes sense to me,” Buffett said Monday when asked on Fox Business Network whether he would support the pipeline if it doesn’t threaten an environmentally sensitive region in Nebraska.
“There are an awful lot of pipelines running in the United States and net, they've certainly been a huge plus for the country.”
But Buffett — an Obama supporter whose name has been used by the White House to sell a plan to increase taxes on the rich — steered clear of criticizing the president.
“I don’t think that issue is done with yet,” Buffett said when asked whether he was disappointed in President Obama’s decision to reject a key permit for the project in January.
Keystone developer TransCanada reapplied for the permit late last week, setting up the latest political battle over the project, which would carry oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Meanwhile, lawmakers are set to discuss a House Republican transportation bill later Tuesday that would force approval of the project.
In the interview, Buffett dismissed claims by supporters of Keystone that the federal government should quickly approve it to create thousands of jobs.
“The jobs aspect of it is not the big aspect of it. The real question is what it will do for the country over many years and what the drawbacks are,” he said.
“You can build anything and it will create jobs. That doesn’t mean it’s a great idea.”
Republicans, industry groups and other supporters of the pipeline have argued for years that approval of the project would create thousands of jobs and boost the economy.
But opponents say those jobs numbers are inflated and raise a slew of environmental concerns, included the possibility of oil spills along the route and increased greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands production.
Buffett is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, headquartered in Nebraska. The state has been a key battleground over the pipeline, with officials raising concerns the original route would threaten the Nebraska Sandhills, an environmentally sensitive region, and the Ogallala aquifer.
TransCanada and Nebraska officials have plotted out a new route that avoids the Sandhills, though it still touches part of the aquifer. The new route has won over many Nebraska officials, but environmental groups continue to raise concerns.