The pipeline has become a powerful symbol and political pawn this election year. It is also a sort of Rorschach test of how Americans view energy issues: Are we energy rich or energy poor? How do energy policies affect job creation, tax revenue and U.S. manufacturing competitiveness? How pressing are climate-change concerns, and how do we balance them with economic priorities?
The American public is firmly behind the pipeline, seeing plenty of upside in potential jobs and limited environmental downside. A new Washington Post poll finds nearly six in 10 saying the U.S. government should approve the project. Its wide acceptance is rooted in the fact that 83 percent think it will create jobs. Nearly half think it will not cause significant damage to the environment.
The oil industry and many national security experts think that importing more oil from Canada, a stable neighbor and ally, will make the United States more secure, and they worry that, without the Keystone XL, Canada will send that oil to China. But the process of extracting oil from the sands, also called tar sands, has alarmed people worried about climate change.
Presumably the Post team will eventually visit the towns of Reklaw (pop. 379), Alto (pop. 1,225) and Gallatin (pop. 419), Texas, which are fighting the pipeline because they fear a spill could contaminate their water supply.
See previously: Keystone rhetoric and reality