Sadly, this shutdown has provided another excuse for a dysfunctional Washington, unable to move forward with a comprehensive energy policy, and handed the administration yet another reason to delay a final decision on the Keystone pipeline expansion.
The shutdown was “complicating the department’s review” of Keystone XL, according to a State Department spokesman. Such a perspective is difficult to reconcile with simple facts. Although the shutdown lasted just a few weeks, the administration has already suggested its review will be slowed into 2014. The State Department has already spent more than five years reviewing a permit to complete the final leg to a pipeline network which is already delivering over half a million barrels of oil each day from Canada. That this review, which has already taken as long as our nation’s entire involvement in World War II, would be taken so far off track by a weeks-long shutdown is indicative of a process which has been hijacked by politics.
Ultimately, and thankfully for our nation’s energy security, the facts support the approval of the final permit. The president has already approved the southern half of Keystone XL, even going so far as to issue an executive order to expedite the project between Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.
‘Keystone South’ is nearing completion and with it, Gulf Coast refineries will see approximately 800,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude by early 2014. Approval or denial of the northern portion of Keystone XL will not change that outcome; no matter how much money the Tom Steyers of the world spend trying to convince the public otherwise.
This complementary section of the Keystone pipeline is necessary for the safe transport of U.S. and Canadian crude oil to our refineries. Pipelines are unequivocally the safest means of transporting oil from the Dakotas. Furthermore, additional capacity in the Keystone line will help ensure our nation’s energy security by receiving more of the resources we need from friendly North American neighbors. T. Boone Pickens may be on to something when he announced last week that Canadian oil spells the end of OPEC, something we should all celebrate forty years after the Arab oil embargo nearly brought our country to a standstill.
Yet, much like the government shutdown was a symbolic debate over the future fiscal direction of the country, Keystone XL has unfortunately become a proxy for those opposed to U.S. energy independence. We should all recognize that adding 852 miles of brand new pipe to our current 2.6 million miles of pipeline infrastructure should be welcomed, not criticized. Especially when one considers that KXL will result in a safer and more secure manner to transport oil currently reaching market on barges, rail cars and trucks.
At the end of the day, the one related factor in these two seemingly unrelated issues is that each debate has been heavy on the political rhetoric and light in the use of facts. One can only hope that the latest excuse for delaying the approval of Keystone XL is not longer an issue given the government’s reopening.
McCown is a former U.S. energy-transportation safety chief who served in both terms of the George W. Bush administration.