Keystone XL approval is critical for America???s energy future

With the election past, and the most recent protest at the White House complete, one thing is certain.  It???s well past time for a final decision on the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  With a second term now assured, President Obama must leave the campaign behind and approve this critical project that will strengthen our economic and national security.

The facts are simple. The Keystone XL pipeline has undergone more than four years of environmental review. The U.S. State Department declared that the pipeline would ???have a degree of safety over any other typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current code.??? This is because of 57 special conditions that will be incorporated into the pipeline, including heavier construction materials in sensitive areas, a higher number of remotely controlled shutoff valves and increased inspection rates.

The Canadian crudes that will travel through the Keystone XL pipeline have been transported into the United States for years. Oil sands crudes must be upgraded before they can be transported by pipeline. Once upgraded, they are similar to other heavy crude oils commonly transported in the United States. Despite what activists may tell you, there is nothing new or special about this pipeline other than the overwhelming degree of safety inherent in its engineering.

The Keystone XL pipeline will deliver an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries, helping our country meet its growing demand for energy. It will also strengthen our relationship with Canada ??? our largest and most reliable trading partner – and the number one supplier of imported oil to the United States, contributing approximately 22 percent of total U.S. imports.

With the completion of the pipeline, our imports from Canada could reach four million barrels a day by 2020. This is twice the amount we currently import each and every day from unstable nations in the Persian Gulf, which means Keystone XL is as much about national security as it is about energy security.

As Americans continue to struggle with high unemployment and a sluggish economy, the Keystone XL pipeline also offers tremendous economic opportunity.

Production of the Canadian oil sands currently supports 80,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, and has the potential to add another 500,000 jobs by 2035, according to a 2011 study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI). Further oil sands production could add an estimated $521 billion to U.S. GDP between now and 2035. This would have real benefits across the nation as American businesses manufacture the equipment and products that are used each day in responsible oil sands production.

Finally, since Canadian crude oil is discounted against U.S. prices, the oil traveling through Keystone XL would be refined at a lower cost, which means lower gasoline and diesel prices for American consumers.

Given all of these positive economic outcomes, it???s no coincidence that Americans support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline by nearly a 2-1 margin. Nor is it surprising that more than 80 percent of Americans believe U.S. policies should support the use of oil from Canada???s oil sands.

However, despite all of these facts, opposition groups ??? who ignore any of the positive effects the project will have ??? continue their attempts to block its construction. If this small but vocal minority is successful, their sole achievement will be higher energy costs for U.S. consumers and forfeited jobs and economic growth.

With the election now in our rearview mirror, it???s time also to put politics behind us and focus on an energy strategy that a majority of Americans ??? Republicans and Democrats ??? can agree on.  On the campaign trail the President stated his commitment to a sound energy policy and approving this needed asset is a huge first step towards that goal.

The Keystone XL pipeline would go a long way in showing that the Obama administration is truly interested in an ???all of the above??? energy policy that will create jobs and make us more secure. At this point in our history, and continued economic recovery, the projects approval is imperative.