January 31, 2013: Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s approval last week of the re-routed Keystone XL Pipeline elicited praise from LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan.  General President O’Sullivan also urged President Obama to grant TransCanada the last permit it needs to begin construction.  Fifty-three U.S. Senators and 146 U.S. Representatives also wrote President Obama to urge swift permitting of one of the most thoroughly vetted pipeline projects in U.S. history.

LIUNA and LECET support the Keystone XL for three very compelling reasons: jobs, jobs, and more jobs.  But there are also plenty of other reasons to support this important project.

The Keystone XL Will Reduce Dependence on Conflict Oil

The Keystone XL will reduce U.S. dependence on oil from politically unstable and unfriendly regimes.  Even as the U.S. works to develop alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar power (both of which LIUNA and LECET support), we will continue to depend on oil for many years to come.  Building the Keystone XL will enable us to get more of that oil from a friendly neighbor and strong ally.

The Keystone XL Pipeline Is the Safest Way to Ship Alberta’s Oil

As the last article on this blog explained, pipelines are widely considered to be the safest way to transport oil and other hazardous substances.  Their routes are set, and can be planned to steer clear of sensitive environmental areas, as the re-routed Keystone XL does in Nebraska.  Shipping this oil by road, rail, and/or barge is far more dangerous, exposing a broad swath of land, roads, and waterways to the very real risk of accidents and spills.  Indeed, just this past week, a barge collided with a bridge along a particularly tricky stretch of the Mississippi, spilling thousands of gallons of oil, and stopping river traffic.  Had that oil been moving through the Keystone XL or another pipeline, it would now be at its destination, and not befouling our rivers.  While the Keystone XL will be neither risk free nor spill proof (no pipeline is), it will be one of the most technologically advanced and corrosion-resistant pipelines ever built, with sensors and other systems designed to shut off the flow of oil if and when a leak is detected, minimizing the size of any spill and speeding clean up.

The Keystone XL Pipeline Is the Cleanest Way to Ship Alberta’s Oil

Hurricane Sandy and other severe weather events have made it clear that we must take climate change seriously and seek to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses.  Ironically, while many of the Keystone XL’s most vocal critics cite climate change as the reason not to build the pipeline, the Keystone XL will release far fewer greenhouse gasses into the air, and have a far smaller carbon footprint, than the tens of thousands of trucks, rail cars, and river barges that will otherwise ship Alberta’s oil to market.  The argument that the pipeline would lead to a significant increase in oil production gets it backwards.  Pipeline planning and construction does not drive oil production; oil production drives pipeline planning and construction, as well as increased use of other modes of transportation when pipeline capacity is insufficient.

Even as the Keystone XL has remained mired in delay after delay, development of Canada’s oil sands has continued.   TransCanada already has begun to explore other pipeline options in case the Keystone XL is rejected, and rail shipments of oil have increased dramatically as oil producers in both Canada and the United States seek less contentious methods of getting their product to market.  Alberta’s oil sands will continue to be developed with or without the Keystone XL.  Forcing the oil pulled out of those sands into dirtier forms of transport will only worsen its environmental and climate impact.

Columnist Stephen Stromberg chides Keystone XL opponents for spending so much time and energy on an issue that is nearly irrelevant to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  “Trying to reduce national or global emissions by blocking an oil pipeline or two,” he writes, “is like trying to hold back the sea by sticking fingers in a leaky dike.”

LIUNA and LECET will continue to join with contractors, owners, business groups, and other pipeline supporters to urge the President to approve this important project.  The time for debate is over.  The time to build this pipeline is now.

Ed Rehfeld, LECET Manager of Communications