Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Keystone election year politics

November 21, 2011
Op-Ed

The Hill
Keystone election year politics

By Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) - 11/21/11 10:44 AM ET

If President Obama was really interested in creating jobs, he would not cave-in to election year politics and surrender to the demands of special interest groups. Unfortunately, this is precisely what happened last week when he punted the final decision on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline until after next fall's election.
 
Support for the pipeline is wide and varied and includes major labor unions who understand this project will create tens of thousands of American jobs and reduce our reliance on Middle East oil. With approval of this project America would have greater energy security, which equals greater national security. That's a win-win for our country.  Building the pipeline will create 20,000 direct American construction jobs with a spinoff of over 100,000 indirect jobs. That’s new, real private sector jobs at a time when our nation desperately needs them.
 
Because the Keystone pipeline would cross from Canada into the United States, the project requires a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of State to proceed.  The pipeline is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires disclosure of potential environmental impacts and the consideration of possible alternatives.  After five years of extensive studies that addressed environmental concerns and determined the project is safe, we still do not have an answer.
 
Just a few months ago, the State Department was signaling support for the final project. And then, thousands of extreme environmental activists and some of their Hollywood friends surrounded the White House in opposition.  The protestors demanded that President Obama deny the project, threatening to derail his re-election bid.  Since then, the extreme environmental movement has gone into overdrive, threatening their support for Mr. Obama in next year’s election.  As a result, the President made a calculated political decision to punt the decision until after next year's election.
 
The simple fact of the matter is that announcing a decision would force President Obama to choose between two groups in his political base: labor unions and environmental activists. Important moments demand leadership that puts the needs of the country above personal political ambitions. The decision on whether or not to approve this project should be solely based on careful and objective review.  Political gains or losses have no place in a decision of this magnitude. As the saying goes, you cannot please all of the people all of the time.
 
America needs a leader who places the needs of this country over politics. The Keystone XL pipeline can reduce our reliance on energy that comes from hostile nations in political turmoil, while also creating jobs and stabilizing our energy supply. Canada has an abundance of energy they want to sell to us, but they cannot, and will not, wait forever. Canadian Prime Minister Harper recently indicated that this delay will force Canada to look for another customer that wants their product.  They won’t have to look far: The Chinese have already signaled their willingness to be that customer.
 
The delay implemented by the President almost assures that China will benefit from our friendly allies abundant oil supply, at the cost of our national security.  His delay means that America will continue to be forced to purchase oil from countries whose supplies could be threatened and therefore are unreliable. The delay also means that out of work Americans have even less hope that they will have the chance to earn a living for their families.
 
As the Calgary Herald astutely pointed out this week, “President Barack Obama last week sacrificed 20,000 jobs to save one – his own. This should come as no surprise, for fact and reason often fall victim to politics.”

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