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President Obama may stall a decision on approving an expansion of the Keystone XL Pipeline beyond the end of his administration, but a Keystone supporter in Congress says Obama's argument against the project's job creation potential contradicts his own jobs agenda.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He told WND the project remains "in limbo" since Obama refuses to allow the pipeline to cross the border and the Senate has not approved legislation designed to deem the project approved. A growing bipartisan majority in both chambers of Congress backs the extension, but Obama has refused to sign off on it because of environmental concerns.
TransCanada owns the pipeline and wants to build a $6 billion extension from Alberta to the Nebraska-Kansas border. The State Department has studied the proposal since 2008. Terry believes Obama is content to wait as long as possible.
"This is what I fear. When he talks about the life-cycle CO2 climate change, I'm wondering if he's going to say, 'We need a new study because I don't like the criteria that was used,' even though that's from the EPA that mandated the criteria of the study. So I'm thinking what he's going to try to do is just delay it another three-and-a-half years," said Terry, who believes the House and Senate might force the issue against Obama's wishes.
"If the president's going to delay this or wants to delay this for another three-and-a-half years, then we'll get enough senators to vote yes on deeming it, and we can actually just go ahead and get it done. Boxing the president in this way might actually be the best thing for him, because then he can blame Congress for doing it and he can keep his street cred with the extreme environmental groups," Terry said.
TransCanada strongly prefers to build the pipeline to the U.S. but has indicated that U.S. refusal or extended delays could trigger Plan B, which would mean a pipeline extension to the west coast of Canada and shipping the oil to China.
President Obama has also indicated that he doesn't see much economic value in the project. At a rally for his economic plan earlier this summer, Obama said, "They keep talking about an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that's estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs. That's not a jobs plan."
Terry said the president's comments are terribly misleading and undermine the very heart of the administration's own plan to create more jobs.
"It's a $6 billion infrastructure job, six-billion private dollars coming into the United States to build this infrastructure project. It'll have 20,000 direct construction jobs, another 20,000 that'll be incidental and support manufacturing jobs and the refineries. Even the State Department says 42,000 jobs directly and indirectly created by this pipeline," Terry said.
He added, "The president is right. The same study at the State Department says 50-100 permanent jobs. Keep in mind this is a construction infrastructure job. So when the construction is done, there will be minimal permanent employees. But go on a bridge and tell me how many permanent employees are on that bridge that was finished right now," he said.
"The president, in his own stimulus package, was advocating for these types of projects to create jobs, but now when it's the pipeline, he uses it to criticize," Terry said.
Obama has given his blessing to an extension of the existing pipeline from Oklahoma to the Texas coast. Terry said that supposedly fair-minded position was meaningless.
"Frankly, it was just silly," he said. "The only thing the president has to do with this pipeline is to permit it to cross the Canadian border. Otherwise, all the states have the power in this respect. So the pipeline had already been approved by Oklahoma and Texas. Therefore, the president had nothing to do with whether that was going to be built."
The congressman also refutes a common argument for rejecting the pipeline extension. Critics allege the pipeline will bring great amounts of oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast, but the U.S. will only be keeping a fraction of it while much of it is exported to other countries.
"The parties that have contracted for that oil are refineries, not shipping entities. So the oil comes from the oil sands in Canada directly to about half a dozen U.S. refineries that are expanding right now to accept that oil," said Terry, who adds that Keystone will reduce costs for energy and energy byproducts in the U.S..
"For most of us that are worried about the price at the pump and our energy security so we can get in the car and get to work and get the kids to school, that's going to add to that level of security," he said.