Mar 13, 2014 - 11:30am

Everyone Weighs in on Keystone, Including Foreign Groups


A section of the Gulf Coast Project in Oklahoma, part of the Keystone XL pipeline.
A section of the Gulf Coast Project in Oklahoma, part of the Keystone XL pipeline. Photo credit: Bloomberg.

The failure to approve construction of a critical portion of the Keystone XL pipeline has tarnished America’s image as a “can do” country open to investment, says Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

Stable, long-term energy supplies from Canada are critical to U.S. energy security at a time when global supplies are often found in geopolitically unstable regions of the world and production from once-reliable sources is slowing… Approving the Keystone XL pipeline and making energy infrastructure a priority will put America on a long-term path to a safe, strong, prosperous, and clean energy future. It is more than past time to move forward and grant the Presidential Permit to allow construction on the pipeline to begin.

Harbert testified at a March 13 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled "Keystone XL and the National Interest Determination."  

She pointed to State Department numbers while touting the economic benefits of the pipeline:

The economic impact and long term benefits of the construction of the KXL pipeline are significant and vitally important to American jobs and our economy, especially during this time of sluggish economic growth. According to the Department of State’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (January, 2014), 42,100 Americans will be employed in direct, indirect, and induced jobs during construction of Keystone XL, generating $2.02 billion in earnings for workers. In addition, the FSEIS reported that the project will generate $66 million in sales tax for goods and services during construction that will infuse economic vitality into local communities. Overall, the Keystone XL project will contribute $3.4 billion during construction to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (FSEIS, January 2014).

Harbert also highlighted the trade benefits:

In addition, the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline would result in an increased flow of trade between the U.S. and Canada. For every U.S. dollar spent on Canadian products, Canadians return 89 cents through the purchase of U.S. goods and services. Compared to the 27 cent return that we get from energy trade partners like Venezuela, the benefits of Canadian trade are obvious, as are the energy security advantages.

Harbert then outlined the security advantages gained from reliable, long-term energy supplies from Canada:

The increased supply of crude oil from KXL would greatly contribute to our move toward North American energy self-sufficiency. U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast rely mostly on foreign imports of heavy crude oil. When completed, the KXL pipeline will have the capacity to supply over 800,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Canada and the U.S. Bakken region to U.S. refineries, curbing dependency on crude oils from Venezuela and Mexico, whose volumes of crude exports are in decline, and less stable countries in the Middle East and Africa...

We can choose to embellish the legacy of Hugo Chavez and ignore the geopolitical manipulation of energy OR we can choose to have a secure and stable supply of oil from Canada and develop our own vast resources here.

She finished by calling for a new approach to the nation’s energy strategy:

Fulfilling America’s energy potential requires strategic thinking underpinned by durable policy. For too long, our approach to energy has been conflicted, contradictory, and myopic. The extraordinary opportunities being created in U.S. energy today have come about despite government policy, not because of it. That has to change if we are to energize the economy and put people back to work, and that means approving needed energy infrastructure, like the Keystone XL pipeline, in a timely manner. 

Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline has also drawn the attention of a surprising amount of international interest, according to a story in The Washington Post. The State Department received almost 3 million comments on the pipeline during its’ public comment period. The Post reports that half of the 2 million public comments opposing the pipeline came in from foreign nationals.

Avaaz, a liberal advocacy group with more than 34 million members worldwide, launched an online drive that translated into 954,827 comments against the pipeline, of which just 65,938 were from the U.S. Another 66,817 came from Canada. Several prominent international figures sent in comments, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, leader of the Australian Greens Christine Milne and Spain's former secretary of state for climate change Teresa Ribera…

Emma Ruby-Sachs, Avaaz's campaign director, said in an interview that it was entirely appropriate to have non-Americans weigh in on the Keystone decision, since Secretary of State John F. Kerry had delivered a speech last month in Indonesia urging the world's nations to work together to combat global warming.

"This decision is really a referendum on U.S. climate leadership as a whole," Ruby-Sachs said, noting that Kerry referred to climate change as a "“perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction" in his speech last month.  "If climate change is a weapon of mass destruction, Keystone is the fuse. Our members were saying, 'It’s in your national interest to lead on climate.'"

The Chamber also submitted comments to the State Department. 

Read Karen Harbert's testimony here


About the Author

About the Author

Sheryll Poe is a former senior writer at the U.S. Chamber, who covered public policies affecting businesses including the three "T's" - transportation, trade and taxes.