GOP Sen.: Syrian fights boost Keystone

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) believes the conflict in Syria could increase the odds that the Keystone XL pipeline will be approved.

“I believe it does,” he told The Dickinson Press in an interview.

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“Right now, we’re determining how to respond in the Middle East, specifically Syria, and it shows, with the volatile situation there, how important it is that we can produce our own energy in North America and not have to get it from the Middle East,” Hoeven, a vocal pipeline backer, told the North Dakota paper Thursday.

Syria isn’t a major oil producer. But the civil war there and the prospect of U.S. strikes have riled oil markets over concerns of a widening conflict in the oil-rich region.

Hoeven is pushing for a vote on a resolution that would express approval of Keystone, the pipeline that would bring oil from Canadian oil sands projects across the border en route to Gulf Coast refineries.

It would also carry oil from the booming Bakken region in North Dakota. The pipeline is under Obama administration review.

But Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) took a ripped-from-the-headlines approach in questioning the pipeline on the Senate floor Thursday.

He noted that Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm, whose oil company is a major producer in North Dakota, recently said the pipeline isn’t needed anymore to bring oil from the Bakken region.

Hamm was an energy adviser for Republican Mitt Romney’s failed White House campaign.

“Last month Harold Hamm, the CEO of the largest oil producer in the Bakken shale, Continental, said the Keystone Pipeline was not ‘critical.' For anybody who is interested in the politics, Mr. Hamm isn't some flaming liberal. He was Mitt Romney's chief energy adviser,” Wyden said on the floor during debate on energy efficiency legislation that Hoeven wants to amend with the Keystone resolution.

Wyden also noted a recent Wall Street Journal story headlined “Why U.S. Refiners Don’t Care if Keystone Gets Built.”