Holding Obama to his word on energy projects

President Obama’s State of the Union address will undoubtedly focus on the No. 1 concern of most Americans: jobs. Yet in rejecting the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the president has just squandered the best job-creating opportunity he has ever had. Here he had the chance to strengthen energy security, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create tens of thousands of American jobs. But he said no. Instead, he sided with his extreme left base.

If the Keystone pipeline had been built, my home state of Oklahoma would have played a large role, as the pipeline was to run from Canada all the way down through Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf. Yet, in rejecting the Keystone permit, Obama still made an important commitment to Cushing. He said, “In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security — including the potential development of an oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico.”

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In that case, I will be holding Obama to his commitment so we can begin working on the pipeline immediately. The first step will be to secure a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, an agency that I am very familiar with as the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Too often I’ve seen this permit process take years due to unnecessary bureaucratic impediments. But this project is too important to delay. Extensive environmental reviews have been conducted on this portion of the pipeline since 2008, so any remaining permits and approvals should be fast-tracked so that we can get Americans back to work in Oklahoma and Texas. 

The president should do everything in his power to expedite the process because “we can’t wait” for the 1,200 jobs the pipeline will bring to Oklahoma immediately. We also can’t wait to strengthen our energy security by transporting the wealth of resources that our state possesses. Cushing’s pipeline infrastructure can’t accommodate the current volume of crude oil needed for distribution — this new pipeline will greatly improve our ability to get these resources out of Cushing. 

While Obama’s apparent willingness to build the pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf is most welcome, this smaller pipeline in no way replaces the larger Keystone project, which would create thousands more jobs — and we will continue to fight to get it built. 

The president gave several excuses for rejecting Keystone. He blamed Republicans for giving him an arbitrary deadline, knowing full well that the pipeline, as well as congressional action that forced the president to make a decision, had widespread bipartisan support. Even the unions and the president’s own jobs council asked him to approve the project. In fact, as the jobs council’s interim report states, “What’s gotten less attention … is the number of jobs at stake” and the Keystone pipeline could “support or preserve hundreds of thousands of jobs in the next few years.” 

Amid the president’s phony excuses, it was ironically the environmental left that cut through the rhetoric and told us the truth. One of the global warming movement’s main leaders said his decision was the biggest climate “victory” in years. 

That’s right, Obama rejected the Keystone pipeline because of global warming — and his well-known desire to do away with fossil fuels. But of course, he won’t say that because he’s gotten the message loud and clear that the American people no longer care about global warming — they care about creating jobs and strengthening our energy security. That’s why Obama tried to punt his Keystone decision until after the election; when Congress forced him face up to it, he chose to side with his radical environmental friends and their job-killing global warming agenda instead of a majority of the American people who want these tens of thousands of new jobs. 

Of course, the global warming alarmists think that by preventing the pipeline they are helping to bring down carbon emissions. Well, like all their so-called “solutions,” including cap and trade, stopping the pipeline will only increase emissions as Canada sells and ships its resources half way around the world to places like China with dismal pollution controls. 

Someone close to the president said, “There was never the slightest bit of doubt we were going to say no” to the Keystone pipeline and that no one should be surprised by his announcement. It’s true — we shouldn’t be surprised. 

That’s why I will be watching Obama’s decision on this new pipeline proposal closely. Even as we fight to get the Keystone project approved, I will also be working to make sure the president makes the right decision on the pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf, because Oklahomans will be holding him to his word. 

Inhofe is the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.