Senate Democrats Weigh Vote Backing Keystone XL
Comment of the Day

April 29 2014

Commentary by David Fuller

Senate Democrats Weigh Vote Backing Keystone XL

Here is the opening for this Bloomberg article on an important project, long delayed by the White House:

U.S. Senate Democratic leaders are considering scheduling a vote on a non-binding resolution urging approval ofTransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL pipeline, according to two Senate Democratic aides.

The option is being discussed as a way to ease passage of separate legislation the Senate may consider as soon as next week that aims to promote energy efficiency, according to the aides, who requested anonymity.

The idea behind the approach is that promising a vote on backing approval of the pipeline would allow Democratic leaders to make the case that Keystone shouldn’t be debated as part of the energy-efficiency bill. It also would give some Democrats a chance to publicly state their support for the project.

“This is energy, which relates to many controversial issues so there’s the possibility of lots of issues coming up,” said Ohio Senator Rob Portman, the chief Republican sponsor of the energy efficiency measure. “But that’s what we’re paid to do -- debate and vote on tough issues. So I hope we’ll be able to do that.”

The Senate voted 62-37 in March 2013 in favor of a non-binding resolution endorsing construction of the pipeline. Sixteen Democrats voted for the measure, including Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Begich of Alaska. The four are seeking re-election this year in states that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won in 2012.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said today that Democrats could pay a political price for failing to force approval of the project.

“You’d think Washington Democrats would join the majorities of Americans who say that Keystone is a good deal for our country,” McConnell said.

After the State Department announced earlier this month that it was again delaying a recommendation on the pipeline, Democratic backers said the Senate should go further and circumvent the administration by forcing the project’s approval.

David Fuller's view

The US may face a Cold War with Russia over Putin’s territorial aggression in Eastern Europe but it would be careless of Obama to further chill relations with Canada over the Keystone pipeline.

Energy remains the most crucial strategic asset, with global demand certain to surge as economies recover from the 2008 credit crisis slump.  The world needs all forms of energy from fossil fuels to nuclear power and increasingly renewables as the best long-term solution once their efficiency and reliability has been improved.

Without fossil fuels, especially crude oil and natural gas as some environmentalists advocate, the global economy would soon slide into depression.  This would cause appalling hardship and sharply reduce funding for the technologically led development of renewable energy.

Currently, this is advancing at an encouraging rate but the global economy will be reliant on fossil fuels for at least the next few decades.  The Keystone Pipeline would strengthen North America’s hand as a united key supplier of oil and natural gas, at a time when too many rogue regimes remain in charge of a significant proportion of energy supplies. 

The Keystone Pipeline would increase energy supplies from democracies, help global GDP growth and weaken the control over energy supplies by dictatorial governments which do not share our values.  The Keystone project should be approved by the US White House and Congress, and built without further delay. 

See also: How Obama Shocked Harper as Keystone Frustrator-in-Chief, posted on 25th April.


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