The U.S. Senate energy and natural resources committee endorsed the Keystone XL pipeline on Wednesday even as Al Gore predicted that President Barack Obama will reject Canadian efforts to funnel Alberta oil sands crude to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast.
The President "has signalled that he is likely to reject the absurdly reckless Keystone XL pipeline proposal for the transport of oil from carbon intensive tar sands to be taken to market through the United States on its way to China, thus effectively limiting their exploitation," said Al Gore, the former vice-president and leading environmental advocate who penned An Inconvenient Truth about the grave threat of global warming caused by greenhouse-gas emissions.
TransCanada Corp. fired back. "Al Gore inconveniently ignores several facts," Shawn Howard, a company spokesman, responded in an e-mail. "Keystone XL will move Canadian and American oil to U.S. refineries, where tens of thousands of skilled refinery workers create products we all rely on. This includes fuels that power equipment in the television studios that Gore used to own and consumer products like gasoline and jet fuel that he relies on."
Mr. Gore delivered his prediction in article he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine that was posted Wednesday.
Mr. Obama, who has repeatedly delayed deciding on the controversial pipeline, has not publicly given any indication when he will reject or approve Keystone XL although most pundits believe that he will not make his decision until after this November's midterm elections.
Senate energy committee chairwoman Mary Landrieu, an unabashed Keystone XL supporter who is among the most vulnerable Democrats in the elections, staged the vote as part of an ongoing congressional effort to push the President to approve the $5.4-billion project. It may boost her re-election campaign.
In the non-binding vote, most backers and opponents of Keystone XL seemed to accept that Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, is not willing to put Keystone XL to another vote of the full Senate.
"I've pushed many bills through," Ms. Landrieu promised. "Just get ready."
All 10 Republicans on the committee backed Keystone, joined by two Democrats, Ms. Landrieu and West Virginia's Joe Manchin. The other 10 members were opposed.
Some Republicans referred to the article by Mr. Gore, who lost to George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential elections, before the committee vote.
"Clearly [the President] is going to turn it down," Politico quoted Senator John Hoeven as saying. The North Dakota Republican and strong supporter of Keystone XL added: "His strategy is to defeat with delay and he's doing it pretty well."
TransCanada Corp. appreciates "the continued support from many members of Congress, including members of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee," Mr. Howard said.
"This pipeline will benefit thousands of skilled workers, help reduce dependence on oil from regimes that are openly hostile to America's interests and values – and gets it to refineries using the safest and most environmentally responsible transportation method possible."
Environmentalists have turned the Keystone XL decision into a test of Mr. Obama's credibility on climate change.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called Mr. Obama's decision a "no-brainer," and a steady parade of cabinet ministers and western premiers have lobbied relentlessly for TransCanada Corp.'s project, claiming Alberta's vast oil sands reserves would secure energy security for the United States from a reliable neighbour.
But opponents argue that Keystone XL will fund a vast expansion of Alberta's carbon-laden oil sands and is primarily designed to funnel Canadian oil to export markets in Asia after being refined in Texas and Louisiana.
"If we approve the Keystone pipeline … what we are saying to the entire world is, 'Don't believe anything anybody says about climate change,' " said Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with the Democratic Party.