Last January, President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada Corp.'s proposal to build a pipeline carrying Canadian bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to refineries in the United States, including some in Texas on the Gulf of Mexico coast. The rejection was a calculated election-year move aimed at appeasing Mr. Obama's supporters in the powerful environmental movement. With his re-election, the President should now move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline on its merits alone.
Those merits are many, and they serve both Canada and the United States. TransCanada Corp. has proposed a new route that avoids environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska and reduces potential impact on the vital Ogallala aquifer. The pipeline's construction will create jobs, secure a hungry market for the heavier crude from the oil sands, decrease North American dependency on overseas oil, and help lower the price of gas in the United States. The pipeline has even been touted as the best way for Canadian producers to export crude to China, by putting it on ships once it arrives in the Gulf.
Opposition to the pipeline has been, and will remain, fierce, of course. The project has become the bête noire of North American environmental activists, in no small part because of its link to the oil sands. There have been noisy protests outside the White House during which celebrities have been arrested. As well, Hurricane Sandy has raised new worries about climate change, which, justifiably or not, will heighten public sensitivity to anything that can be linked by environmental groups to greenhouse gases.
Some of the environmental concerns are valid, and Washington and state officials should do their due diligence before giving final approval. But the pipeline's economic benefits for Canada and the United States are too numerous to ignore, and TransCanada Corp. has taken the proper steps to satisfy environmental regulations. The time has come to move forward on this vital project.