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Keystone supporters turn up the heat on Obama

President Barack Obama's opponents in Washington sense they have a winner in the Keystone XL pipeline.

For three consecutive days through Wednesday, the office of House Speaker John Boehner posted articles on its blog about the obstacles the White House keeps putting in front of TransCanada Corp.'s bid to string a pipeline from Alberta to refineries in Texas.

To paraphrase: Rather hypocritical, isn't it Mr. President, to be delaying a project that will create 20,000 jobs at a time when 23 million Americans are either out of work, working part time, or have given up looking?

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Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce put its considerable influence behind Mr. Boehner's Keystone campaign. "There is no legitimate reason – none at all – to subject it to further delay," Tom Donahue, the chamber's president, said in his annual "State of American Business" speech – "We can put 20,000 Americans to work right away and up to 250,000 over the life of the project."

The decision of Mr. Donahue to put his clout squarely behind the House Republicans means the Keystone debate will be a lively one, given the environmentalists that forced the delay in approving the project are unlikely to give up. The Obama administration must make a decision by the end of next month.

Jobs are the No. 1 issue right now in American politics; perhaps the only real issue. Mr. Obama on Wednesday staged an event at the White House on "insourcing" – the administration's attempt to create a phenomenon of the anecdotal evidence that suggests some American companies are choosing to re-establish manufacturing operations in the United States rather than Asia. The President said he would propose tax incentives to speed up the trend.

A handful of companies, including Ford, were highlighted by the President as examples of businesses that are "bringing jobs home." The chamber is unimpressed. "He missed one of the easiest insourcing opportunities: the Keystone pipeline," Bruce Josten, the group's head of government affairs, said at a press conference Thursday.

The Canadian government's noises about selling its oil to Asia if the Keystone project is blocked are creating an echo in Washington, at least outside the White House.

"I'll tell you what the Canadians are going to do about it, they are going to build a pipeline to the West Coast and sell the oil to the Chinese," Mr. Donahue said at the press conference, which was attended by about 100 reporters.

One of Mr. Boehner's bloggers voiced the same concern this week. Responding to news reports about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's heightened interest in selling oil to Asia, Don Seymour wrote "that would mean Canadian workers and Chinese firms, who are investing in Canadian energy, would benefit – not American workers."

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Wait a minute. Building a pipeline to the West Coast instead of Texas means Canadian workers would benefit? Mr. Boehner's man ought to be careful. He might give the Prime Minister's Office ideas.

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About the Author
Senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation

Kevin Carmichael is a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, based in Mumbai.Previously, he was Report on Business's correspondent in Washington. He has covered finance and economics for a decade, mostly as a reporter with Bloomberg News in Ottawa and Washington. A native of New Brunswick's Upper St. More

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