Daniel Kish is senior vice president at the Institute for Energy Research.
Gov. Dave Heineman's approval this week of the Keystone XL pipeline reroute through Nebraska rocketed one of America's most important energy decisions back into headlines. After the president rejected the pipeline in 2012, the issue lay largely dormant. However, the governor's seal and subsequent letter to the president has set the stage for an all-or-nothing situation that will not only color American energy policy for years to come, but will create or destroy thousands of American jobs.
First and foremost, the Keystone pipeline is a major boon to our economy and job market. Economic analysis predicts up to $1.8 billion of investment in Nebraska alone as well as thousands of new jobs across all 50 states by the year 2020. The pipeline will increase our productive capacity by connecting our oil resources in the north to our refining hubs in the south. Conversely, rejecting it will hamstring one of America's strongest sectors just as we come out of our recession.
Even those typically not aligned with traditional energy have admitted that the pipeline is a safe venture. To meet environmental concerns, TransCanada rerouted the pipeline to avoid a major aquafier in Nebraska, and agreed to 57 conditions including $200 million in liability insurance, more stringent inspection protocol, and more rigorous design and construction.
The international, economic, environmental, and logistical barriers to the pipeline have all been lifted. The entire project now rests on President Obama's approval—he may have the most to gain of all.
Editorial boards as well as grassroots activists and everyday Americans have made it clear that they recognize the economic engine that Keystone can become. In Washington, 53 senators, including Democrats and Republicans, have signed a letter in support of the pipeline. Unlike the many divisive issues that have sapped Obama's political capital, this arrangement could please Congress and Americans. This could end up as a major bargaining point as rumblings of a fiscal showdown continue in Congress.
President Obama's legacy has been one of recession and energy regulation. At the beginning of his second term, the president must decide whether he will or will not change his ways. Keystone presents the perfect opportunity to do so. Not only will the pipeline help the president by bringing unemployment down, it will show that he is capable of moving towards the center and of making decisions based on the needs of his country over the wants of his party's fringe environmentalists. It will show that America for the next four years can rely on a more moderate and reasonable president who truly believes in an "all the above energy."