Saturday, January 19, 2013

Environmentalists versus workers: Keystone pipeline decision will shape Obama’s legacy

Whether President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline or not hinges on one key question: Which is more important to him, creating jobs and promoting energy independence or fighting climate change? Two reports released Thursday highlight both issues, making even clearer the choice the White House faces. Mr. Obama has delayed for more than a year a final decision on the massive pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil sands through the U.S. to Gulf Coast refineries. The project’s latest route also must be approved by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican whose state stands to benefit if the pipeline is built. A study commissioned by the Consumer Energy Alliance details those benefits: more than 5,500 Nebraska jobs created during the 2013-14 construction period, with nearly 1,000 permanent jobs continuing through 2030; more than $950 million in labor income generated for the life of the project; more than $130 million in property, sales and other taxes for Nebraska coffers; and an estimated $679 million boost to Nebraska’s gross domestic product. Congressional Republicans, oil and gas industry groups and other project proponents also have urged the administration to green-light the pipeline. They say it is one of the surest ways to create jobs and continue the U.S. on its path to freedom from Middle Eastern oil. But Mr. Obama, armed with fresh political capital after his convincing re-election victory, also is facing intense pressure from environmental and conservation groups to reject the pipeline, a move that likely would kill the project once and for all. Because the pipeline crosses an international border, it requires approval from the State Department and the White House. Another study put forward Thursday by Oil Change International, an environmental group opposed to fossil fuels, points to the carbon emissions that would be generated by Keystone. Opponents argue that by approving the project and green-lighting those carbon emissions, Mr. Obama would be raising a white flag in the war against climate change, an issue he has promised to confront in a second term and one he addressed in his election-night victory speech...more

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