Oh, governing goes on amid the stump speeches, but no policy point can be viewed any way other than through the fabled “electoral prism.” How does it affect the party in power, the incumbent, the opposition, the challenger?
In such times, politics have a way of overriding common sense. Such was the case with the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s oil sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.
President Barack Obama faced intense heat from environmentalist supporters to reject the privately funded, 1,660-mile pipeline on climate change and potential spill concerns. He faced similar heat from union supporters to approve it for the jobs it would create.
As we noted a year ago, Obama flipped a coin onto its edge and put off a decision until after the election. House Republicans, in another nakedly political move, overplayed their hand by embedding a 60-day deadline in the payroll-tax-cut deal, which moved Obama not at all.
Now that the president has won his second term, perhaps we can let common sense override politics.
While sharing many of the environmentalists’ concerns, this newspaper again encourages the president to approve the Keystone XL and the Canadian oil it would bring to U.S. refineries.
This project could yield thousands of new jobs and millions in new investment, but more important are the benefits to U.S. energy security. More Canadian oil would help displace crude imported from places unfriendly to the U.S. or in perpetual turmoil with oil from a stable trading partner and close ally.
Canadian companies already move oil sands crude into the U.S. through other pipelines, and their government wants to send more. If not, Canada must sell this valuable resource elsewhere, most likely to China.
Pipeline transport has proved safer than ship, truck or train. TransCanada Corp. has jumped through every regulatory hoop — including rerouting the Keystone XL around Nebraska’s environmentally sensitive Sandhills region — and has agreed to dozens of improvements beyond current standards. No pipeline is perfect, but this was already the most researched infrastructure project in U.S. history, even before the latest delay.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, 18 senators — nine Republicans and nine Democrats — wrote to Obama recently urging him to approve the pipeline, which also is planned to carry oil south from the booming Bakken field in North Dakota and Montana.
The environmental concerns are real — as pipeline protesters reminded us recently in Washington — but manageable. On balance, if our nation is ever to achieve something close to energy independence, it must take better advantage of friendly sources, even as it transitions toward a cleaner, more renewable future.