Opinion

Shovel-ready jobs buried by Obama administration’s pipeline decision

Photo of Rep. Joe Barton
Rep. Joe Barton
Chairman Emeritus, House Energy and Commerce Committee
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      Rep. Joe Barton

      Joe Barton was first elected to Congress by the people of Texas' Sixth Congressional District in 1984. In 2004, he was selected by his House colleagues to be the chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the oldest standing legislative committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Among his remarkable predecessors is the late House Speaker Sam Rayburn of Bonham, the third Texan to lead the committee since it was created in 1795.

      The Energy and Commerce Committee of today has accumulated the broadest non-tax jurisdiction of any committee in Congress. It is vested by the House with primary responsibility over matters relating to energy, public health and safety, and the national and international marketplace. The congressman currently serves as its Ranking Republican.

      Called the "House GOP's leading expert on energy policy" by The Wall Street Journal, Barton's tenure in the chair during Republican control of the House was highlighted by the creation and passage of the most comprehensive bipartisan national energy legislation since the 1930s. "It couldn't be done. It hadn't been done. In the end, Joe Barton did it," observed The Dallas Morning News. A proponent of competition, Barton also is responsible for both the first electricity deregulation legislation to pass a House subcommittee, and for legislation which deregulated the natural gas industry. The congressman supports energy policies that yield a reliable supply at affordable prices while also protecting the environment.

      Barton's determined commitment to individual freedoms earned him early notice from National Journal as one of the magazine's "Republicans to Watch." In his first legislative victory as a committee chairman, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation to limit indecency on the public airwaves. As a founding co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus with Congressman Ed Markey, D-Mass., he is an innovative protector of Americans' financial and medical privacy, with a particular concern for issues ranging from identify theft to the hazards to privacy and child safety that exist on the Internet.

      As founding co-chairman of Asthma Awareness Day on Capitol Hill, Barton works to achieve common-sense clean air policy at the local, state and national level. His success in reauthorizing the National Institutes of Health was a milestone in the fight to advance research into diabetes, cancer, HIV, mental health and other diseases, and his work in winning passage for landmark reforms at the Food and Drug Administration dramatically improved the way that the safety of medical devices is ensured.

      Joe Linus Barton was born on September 15, 1949 in Waco, Texas, where he lived on a Central Texas farm and grew into a hard-throwing baseball pitcher. He also excelled at academics, and earned a competitive, four-year Gifford-Hill Opportunity Award scholarship to Texas A&M University. Texas A&M named him the outstanding industrial engineering student for the Class of 1972. He then earned his Master of Science degree in Industrial Administration from Purdue University and, in 1981, was selected for the prestigious White House Fellows Program. He was assigned to the Department of Energy and served as aide to then-Energy Secretary James B. Edwards. Barton returned to Texas in 1982 as a natural gas decontrol consultant for Atlantic Richfield Oil and Gas Co. Successful in his first bid for Congress, he became only the second Republican to serve the Sixth District in its century-long history.

      The congressman and his wife, Terri, have homes in Ennis and Arlington, Texas. He has four children, two stepchildren and four grandchildren.

For more than three years, the application to build the Keystone XL Pipeline has been sitting around Washington waiting for approval.

During that time a lot has happened: gas prices have nearly doubled, unemployment has remained alarmingly high and our nation’s dependence on oil from hostile sources has continued to grow.

And yet on Wednesday the Obama administration dusted off the pipeline’s paper work only to bury the only shovel-ready project that could help fix each of those problems.

That leaves millions of us asking why. Why would the president deny such a vital project? And the answer is apparently time. According to the official release by the State Department, “The President concurred with the Department’s recommendation, which was predicated on the fact that the Department does not have sufficient time to obtain the information necessary to assess whether the project, in its current state, is in the national interest.”

Three years isn’t enough time? Tell that to the construction worker in the unemployment line or the person paying $100 to fill her gas tank.

If it had been approved, the Keystone pipeline system would have carried 1.4 million barrels of oil each day to refineries along the coast of my home state of Texas, significantly expanding North American energy supplies and reducing our need to import oil from unstable regions of the world. Building the Keystone XL Pipeline would also have directly created an estimated 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs, and that’s not including the thousands of additional jobs and economic benefits that would have come from an infrastructure project of this magnitude and the secure, stable energy resources it would have delivered.

And this project wouldn’t have cost taxpayers a penny because it was privately funded.

Republicans aren’t the only ones who understand the pipeline’s benefits:

• Just Tuesday, the president’s own jobs council recommended building pipelines and expanding energy exploration in the U.S.

• In October, 22 House Democrats wrote the president a letter praising the economic benefits of the pipeline and urging him to issue a presidential permit.

• Over the past three years, several labor unions have expressed support for the project, reiterating its job-creating potential.

But each of these pleas fell on deaf ears and instead the president decided to play politics with our economy and listened to radical anti-energy activists. They all ignored the fact that the pipeline and its route have been carefully vetted, environmentally scrutinized and publicly discussed for years.

Now the jobs could end up staying in Canada and the oil will likely be shipped to China.

Despite today’s decision, people from both parties will continue to fight for the Keystone XL Pipeline, the jobs it will create and the energy it will bring to our nation.

I applaud Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton for inviting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify on the review her department completed as Congress looks at options to restart the project now that the president has decided he cannot approve it.

You can bet that we will continue to battle to create a job-friendly environment and secure our nation’s energy future.

Joe Barton, a Republican congressman from Texas, is the chairman emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.