President Obama's bold decision on Keystone XL is a win for U.S. energy security

By rejecting a rushed approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, President Obama has confirmed his commitment to U.S energy independence. As we honor our veterans, we should celebrate a decision that will make them and the American people safer. Few people are in a better position to understand the impact that Obama’s decision will have on our troops than Retired Brigadier General Steven Anderson, who served as the Chief Logistician in Iraq and Afghanistan under Gen. Petreaus. General Anderson, who first identified the connections between fuel conveys and American casualties in Iraq, recently wrote an op-ed explaining that Keystone XL would threaten U.S. national security.

General Anderson praised President Obama’s decision yesterday to reject TransCanada’s current plan in a statement, saying:

 “I’m pleased to see that the Administration has had the good sense to reject TransCanada’s current plan and will give this project the scrutiny it deserves. My experiences in Iraq convinced me that the greatest threat to our security is our over-reliance on oil and that Americans must immediately take steps to cut our petro-addiction before it’s too late.”

The General went on to say:

“The Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t help.  This pipeline would move dirty oil from Canada to refineries in Texas and would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, and do absolutely nothing to move us off Middle East oil, to our enemies’ delight.  It would ensure we maintain our oil addiction and delay making the tough decisions regarding energy production, management and conservation that we need to start making today.  I am hopeful that after further review, the President will officially end all plans to allow TransCanada to build this oil.”

TransCanada has asserted that without its pipeline, America will “continue to import 10 million barrels of oil a day.” Keystone XL wouldn’t have reduced U.S. oil imports. As my colleague Wesley Warren points out, because the United States failed in its attempt to conquer our neighbor to the north during the War of 1812, Canada is in fact a different country. And that means that imported oil from Canada is still imported oil.

Moreover, Keystone XL would not have increased Canadian oil imports to the U.S. any time soon. Right now, there is nearly twice as much pipeline capacity from Canada as there is oil to fill it. The Department of Energy estimated that Keystone XL wouldn’t bring new oil into the United States until the mid-2020s or later.

The three things the pipeline would have done are 1) allowed tar sands producers to export their crude in the international market from Houston, 2) sent a strong signal to financial markets that would have expanded the destructive production of low grade tar sands bitumen and 3) strengthened interests that oppose the development of clean energy technologies in the United States. None of these things are in the country's economic, security or environmental interests.

Keystone XL would not have protected the United States from oil market price fluctuations or reduced the price of crude in the United States. The Canadian government, when not boosting Keystone XL, has admitted that it does not influence the world price of oil. When world oil prices go up, Canadian oil prices go up with them.

Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency James Woolsey and Anne Korin, Co-Director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security summed this up: “Even if the U.S. did not import a drop of oil-or if all, instead of just most, of our imports came from Canada and Mexico-we’d still be vulnerable to the vagaries of the oil markets and price manipulation by OPEC.”

The only way to ensure American energy security is to make our country truly independent from world oil markets. The United States Energy Security Council, a bipartisan organization of former cabinet officials, scientists, national security and business leaders explained:

“Oil’s status as a strategic commodity undermines U.S. national security and weakens the U.S. economy.  Reducing oil’s strategic importance requires breaking its virtual monopoly over transportation fuel.”

President Obama understands this. His administration has made significant strides in reducing the country’s dependence on oil – the U.S. uses nearly two million barrels of oil per day less than it did just six years ago.  By 2030, new automotive fuel efficiency standards established by the Obama will have reduced the nation’s fuel consumption by an additional 1.5 million gallons a year.

By rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline as proposed, the Obama Administration has shown bold leadership as it directs the United States to a safer and cleaner future.

Ret. Brigadier General Steven Anderson testifies before the State Department on Keystone XL, October 6, 2011

About the Authors

Anthony Swift

Director, Canada Project, International program

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