OPINION: Chicago Tribune Editorial "Energy security and American jobs"

March 29, 2013

Energy Security and American Jobs
March 29. 2013

President Barack Obama has a big decision to make about this nation's economic future. The call is an easy one, and it's long overdue.

The president should approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would link the rich oil sands in the Canadian province of Alberta to U.S. refineries and ports in the Gulf of Mexico. Last Friday evening, 17 Democrats joined all of the U.S. Senate's Republicans in urging Obama to do just that. The 62-37 vote was nonbinding but signaled bipartisan frustration with the administration's reluctance to approve the project.

The president is expected to make a decision by this summer. He rejected a Keystone plan a year ago, in the midst of his re-election campaign. That was applauded by some environmental groups and angered the Canadian government. But the most significant impact was this: It kept Americans from getting good-paying jobs.

The U.S. has made great strides toward energy independence, thanks to conservation efforts and an incredible boom in exploration for domestic oil and natural gas. A recent report from Citigroup projected the U.S. could become North American energy independent by 2020. That is, this nation could get all of its energy from the U.S. and Canada.

The U.S. would no longer be reliant on supplies from the volatile Middle East. This country would become a net exporter of oil, and lower energy costs would help to fuel broad economic growth.

But those projections depend on the U.S. making the right decisions about supply and consumption.

One of those decisions is approval of the Keystone pipeline.

Yes, much of the oil delivered from Canada to the U.S. would then be refined for export, not consumed here. This is viewed in some quarters as a flaw, as if exporting American-made oil products exploits Americans.

We view it as ... manufacturing. You remember manufacturing, the process in which workers take raw supplies, turn them into a finished product and sell it?

Even if every drop of Keystone oil were exported, the U.S. would benefit from the pipeline construction and the permanent refinery jobs. Making products the rest of the world wants is evidence of economic strength. And as domestic demand increases with the economic recovery, today's exports could be tomorrow's domestic supply. …

It's time to approve, at long last, this pipeline. And to let the North American energy industry make the most of the opportunity afforded by the mining of shale-oil deposits and the expanded use of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, to produce natural gas and oil.

Allow America to draw on its bounty. The economy will benefit. The nation will be more secure and successful. And Americans will go to work.

To read the entire editorial online, click here.

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