By Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) - 02/25/14 12:35 PM EST
Earlier this month, former Obama administration Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a news conference that “the decision on whether the construction should happen” on the Keystone XL pipeline “was a political one and not a scientific one.
The comment was a welcome bit of frankness from someone connected with the president’s administration, because it has become overwhelmingly clear that the president’s refusal to approve Keystone is not motivated by policy but by politics.
Indeed, the president himself has largely ceased to even try to offer a justification for his continued delay of the pipeline because he is out of excuses. The facts prove this infrastructure project is in our national interest and support approval of the pipeline.
First and foremost, the pipeline would benefit our economy. Construction of the pipeline would give struggling American workers access to more than 42,000 jobs and result in a $5.3 billion investment in the U.S. economy. State governments, including that of my own state of South Dakota, would benefit from the $5 billion in property taxes they would receive over the life of the project.
Thanks to its economic and energy benefits, the pipeline enjoys widespread approval. Republicans in Congress have spent the past five years urging the president to approve Keystone, but our voices have been far from the only voices raised in support.
Democrats in both houses of Congress strongly back the project and the economic benefits it would bring to their states. Unions, whose members would benefit from the jobs the pipeline would create, have pushed for the project, and public polling has shown time and time again that the American people support the pipeline. Even the president’s former Interior secretary expressed his support for the project this month.
Five separate environmental reviews by the president’s own State Department have found the pipeline would have no significant environmental impact. In fact, the most recent review made clear the pipeline is actually likely to be far better for the environment than other methods of transporting the oil.
Whether the president ultimately approves the pipeline or not, Canada will still extract its oil. The only question is whether the oil is safely transported to the U.S. via the Keystone pipeline or whether the oil is shipped to China via more hazardous means.
Given the economic benefits of the project, its negligible environmental impact, and the widespread support among members of Congress of both parties and the American people, there is no excuse for the president’s continued refusal to approve the pipeline. Unfortunately, the president has decided that pandering to the far-left environmental wing of his party is more important than creating jobs for American workers.
The far-left environmental movement has seized on the Keystone pipeline as a useful political tool for rallying its base and has pressured the president, who owes environmentalists for their efforts on his reelection campaign, to oppose the pipeline. Instead of standing up to them, the president has so far chosen to yield to their pressure.
The president’s decision to obstruct the pipeline and the jobs it would create to pander to the far-left wing of his party is inexcusable, particularly given the economic struggles faced by so many Americans during his administration. Americans are in desperate need of jobs, and with nothing more than a stroke of his pen, the president could create more than 42,000 of them, all without spending a dime of taxpayer money. Instead, he is once again putting politics above the needs of Americans.
If the president were really serious about helping American workers, he would stop pandering to environmentalists and sign off on the Keystone pipeline today.
Thune is the junior senator from South Dakota, serving since 2005. He is chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and sits on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Finance committees.