A reasonable Congress and president could find compromise on the Keystone XL pipeline, which makes it a good first test of the new power-sharing reality in Washington, D.C.
Leaders should work together to get the project moving at last.
On Thursday the Senate Energy Committee in the newly GOP-controlled Senate advanced a Keystone bill to debate next week in the full chamber, while the House anticipated a 10th pro-pipeline vote Friday.
But President Obama has threatened a veto, as backers seek the 67 Senate votes that would be needed to override it.
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Both sides have made this decision far harder than it needs to be, by distorting the facts for partisan purposes.
Republicans are guilty of exaggerating the jobs to be generated, both during construction and long term, and the value of the pipeline to the U.S. economy and goal of energy independence.
Many Democrats lowball the jobs and overstate the potential impact of the pipeline on climate change – as if, without it, the crude from the Canadian oil sands will stay put, unrefined and unconsumed. And in the absence of the completed pipeline, more and more of the oil is moving by rail, which comes with the serious safety risks of derailment and with more greenhouse-gas emissions.
Obama’s reasons for delay increasingly seem baseless, and mostly aimed at appeasing environmental activists indefinitely. He says he’s waiting for a final ruling from his State Department, but it already declared last year that “the proposed project is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas” or have much effect on the climate – assessments unlikely to change. Holding out for a Nebraska court decision on the route also seems unnecessary.
What’s changed the most since the project came up for approval is the global oil glut. But if increased U.S. production and plummeting worldwide prices have altered the cost analysis on oil-sands extraction and hurt the viability of the Keystone project overall, the marketplace will sort that out.
Meanwhile, the nation is left to wonder whether the 1,179-mile northern portion of the pipeline will ever be built. If so, more than 800,000 barrels a day could flow from Alberta, Canada, to the existing pipeline near the Nebraska-Kansas border and then on to the Gulf Coast refineries. Kansas stands to gain 200 construction jobs, while Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska each would need 2,700 to 4,000 more workers.
Inaction isn’t serving much except politics. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be hopeful that consensus can be found in the nation’s capital on Keystone XL or anything else.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman