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Killing pipeline actually hurts the environment

By Michael James Barton Having rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama just paraded into Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference like a triumphant Julius Caesar conquering Gaul.

By Michael James Barton

Having rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama just paraded into Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference like a triumphant Julius Caesar conquering Gaul.

In a recent statement, the president grandiosely proclaimed that he looked forward to joining his "fellow world leaders" to develop a "framework to protect the one planet that we've got while we still can." One wishes he could be this concerned about ISIS.

Unfortunately, without Keystone XL, that planet will include a United States deprived of thousands of new jobs, billions in economic growth, and the chance to achieve true energy independence. And ironically, the planet the president is so eager to protect will also have a worse environment as a direct result of his decision.

Obama's reasons for rejecting Keystone XL were laughable. In his formal statement, the president alleged that Keystone XL "would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy."

But his own State Department has consistently determined otherwise in multiple reviews of the project. The initial construction phase would create 42,000 jobs. The pipeline itself would generate $3.4 billion in new economic activity. Already, the existing Keystone system has contributed almost $200 million in property taxes and generated 14,000 construction jobs in the United States and Canada.

The president also claimed that building Keystone XL would not bring America any closer to energy security.

But expanding our trade relationship with Canada, a loyal and stable ally, would go a long way toward establishing long-term energy self-sufficiency for North America. Thanks to the U.S. fracking revolution, domestic oil and natural-gas production is booming. Projections show that Keystone XL would have ensured that North America could satisfy all of our country's liquid fuel needs over the next dozen years.

The president coupled his baseless claim with yet another misleading assertion, one that sounds like it came from a late-night college bull session: Energy security can be achieved only with a stronger commitment to environmentally sound practices.

Yet every possible question about its environmental impact has been thoroughly studied and effectively addressed by five exhaustive State Department reviews - all of which concluded that the pipeline would have a negligible effect on the environment. Moreover, the pipeline would have been built in accordance with 59 additional safety standards exceeding regulatory requirements.

One wonders if the president knows he took longer to decide if a company could build a pipeline than it took America to win World War II.

Worst of all, failing to build Keystone XL will actually hurt the environment. That's because transporting oil via pipeline is much safer than via rail or truck. Indeed, oil shipments by rail are nearly five times more likely to experience spills or other incidents than those by pipeline, according to a study by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank.

Shipments by pipeline also produce less emissions than alternative methods. Had Obama approved Keystone XL's permit when it was submitted seven years ago, he would have spared the planet 8.8 million tons of greenhouse-gas emissions - the equivalent of eliminating 1.8 million cars from the road.

"Every year that we rely on rail instead of pipeline infrastructure to carry this oil results in more emissions, more spills, and more fatal accidents," lamented Catrina Rorke, energy policy director at the R Street Institute, a Washington-based think tank. "With the pipeline project now effectively killed, that number will continue to compound."

What makes the whole episode even more strange is that apart from the rejection of Keystone XL, Obama actually has an unfalteringly pro-pipeline record. On his watch, more than 12,000 miles of pipeline have been built in the United States, mostly underground. That's the equivalent of ten Keystone XL pipelines - and all without much fuss from the green movement.

Clearly, the president's opposition to Keystone XL isn't about the policy merits. With this decision, he has chosen to appease the environmentalist left, which decided to make killing this pipeline its signature priority.

Keystone XL was a tangible pathway to job creation, economic prosperity, and a healthier environment. Unfortunately for us, those considerations took a backseat to cynical politics and posturing.

Michael James Barton, the energy adviser at ARTIS Research, previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon.