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Monday, Sep 01, 2014
Commentary

U.S. obstinacy, Canadian diplomacy


Published:

President Barack Obama, your friendly neighbor to the north wants a word with you. We hear rumblings that the government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is keen to arrange a high-level confab on energy policy. His objective: Convince a skeptical White House that the Keystone XL pipeline project would be good for both countries. Harper reportedly might dangle an agreement for Canada to cap its carbon emissions, if that would move the $5.3 billion Keystone project forward.

After two years of delays, Obama keeps finding new excuses to stall Keystone, which would carry raw petroleum from land-locked Alberta oil sands to refineries and ports in the Gulf of Mexico. The president this summer put the burden on Canada to “do more” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its oil production. It would be no surprise to us if the Harper government takes him up on it. The project is that important to North America’s long-term economic prospects.

Obama should be welcoming Keystone. It is a large-scale infrastructure improvement funded by a private company that promises a big payoff. Building it would create thousands of construction jobs. It would encourage investment in related energy services and make the transport of crude oil safer and more efficient.

The Environmental Protection Agency has raised objections, as has the Interior Department. The bureaucratic squabbling has put the Keystone project in limbo. But the energy industry is not standing still.

The pipeline would deliver oil to the U.S. that is likelier to be shipped abroad after being refined into fuel and other products than it is to be consumed here.

That said, one of the least-compelling objections to the project is the notion that exporting American-refined oil products would exploit Americans. Even if all the Keystone oil were exported, the U.S. economy still would benefit from pipeline construction, refinery jobs and international shipping. Making products the rest of the world wants is evidence of economic strength. As our economy recovers and consumers here boost demand for petroleum products, today’s exports could be tomorrow’s domestic supply.

We hope Canada’s latest diplomatic efforts produce a breakthrough.

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