Daniel Kish is the senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research.
American energy security is at the forefront of the national conversation, as well it should be. Whether detecting and preventing terrorist attempts to compromise our electricity grid, or maintaining the strictest standards of safety for our nuclear facilities, the American people must have the confidence that government policy is designed to protect the national interest, both economically and environmentally.
But President Obama's November 10 announcement to postpone a final decision on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election presents added challenges to our energy security, keeping American consumers unnecessarily dependent on volatile oil regimes for the nation's oil supply. Unnecessary, of course, because North America is sitting on twice as much oil as the combined reserves of every OPEC nation, according to a study released last week by the Institute for Energy Research.
In short, development of the Keystone XL pipeline would mean an additional 700,000 barrels of Canadian oil every day for U.S. refineries. That's equal to nearly 6 percent of our total daily imports in 2010, and enough to end our need for any daily imports of crude oil from Oman, Chad, Algeria, and Iraq combined. And until the pipeline is active, American consumers are sending these countries approximately $70 million every day to purchase oil that we could be getting from our closest neighbor and trade ally, Canada. Decreasing our energy dependence on these overseas sources makes good sense for our economy and our national security.
Opponents of the pipeline's construction are concerned about the environmental impacts, and such concerns should not be dismissed outright. Neither should the American public be led to believe that oil carried across thousands of miles of ocean in super tankers holding upwards of 1 million barrels of crude oil is more ecologically safe than a pipeline traveling hundreds of miles through America's heartland.
But as technology advances, our ability to detect and prevent leaks both on land and sea increases. With respect to Keystone XL, both TransCanada—the proposed pipeline's owner—and the state of Nebraska have already prepared to redraw the pipeline route to accommodate environmental concerns about the Sandhills region and the Ogallala aquifer.
And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared poised to authorize the pipeline before President Obama nixed it last month, citing the need for an "open and transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people."
As for the voices of the American people, a November 23 Rasmussen poll reported that 60 percent of voters support building the Keystone XL pipeline. Last week, a Wall Street Journal poll showed more than 66 percent in support of the pipeline. And as for an open and transparent process, the Institute for Energy Research has filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the State Department and is awaiting a response. Time will tell just how transparent the administration's decision on Keystone XL will be.