Small businesses need the Keystone Pipeline

Small business owners are concerned about the threat of rising fuel and energy costs. According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey, 77 percent of them say that rising energy prices pose an immediate threat to their business. Small business owners are also worried about the lack of business opportunities in this sluggish economy. The Chamber’s survey shows that 80 percent feel that the administration is not doing enough to keep gas prices low, increase domestic energy sources, or develop an energy policy that supports American jobs. The federal government can do a number of things to ease these concerns but one in particular stands out from the rest.

The Keystone XL Pipeline, which would run from the tar sands of Alberta to the refineries of the American Gulf Coast, would go a long way toward addressing many of the challenges facing small business owners. But TransCanada Keystone LP, the company that’s trying to build the pipeline, can’t begin construction until it gets a permit from the State Department. There lies the debate, which focuses on whether the permit for the pipeline would “serve the national interest.”

The term “serve the national interest,” as it appears in the series of executive orders that govern the construction of pipelines, is not defined by the president’s orders or any statute, leaving the determination in the sole discretion of the State Department.

Considering the weak economy, it’s not hard to see what the “national interest” is in this case. The pipeline would lower oil prices, create thousands of jobs, make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy, and help stabilize oil prices.

TransCanada’s initial proposal, made in 2008, called for the pipeline to travel through the Sandhills region of Nebraska. But, in the face of questions about the pipeline’s potential impact on the region, TransCanada submitted a new proposal rerouting the pipeline around Sandhills. From top to bottom, the project would have a minimal environmental impact.

Business and labor groups stand behind the Keystone XL Pipeline and the opportunities it promises to create. Sean McGarvey, of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, has remarked, “We are tired of waiting and we believe the time has come to make the final decision on one of the most important projects to unlock the energy future for this country — the Keystone XL Pipeline.” The pipeline is a $7 billion investment that is expected to create 20,000 jobs directly and another 22,000 jobs indirectly over the project’s construction period. The Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates that the pipeline will add $172 billion to America’s gross domestic product by 2035. Even the State Department recently estimated that approximately 42,100 jobs would be created over the project construction period.

On Thursday, the Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, which I chair, is holding a hearing on the benefits of the Keystone XL Pipeline for small companies. While individual studies are not broken down into large vs. small business, TransCanada states it has contracts with more than 50 suppliers across the U.S. The majority of suppliers that do this type of work are small businesses.

A whopping 99.7% of the businesses in America are small businesses. Small business owners overwhelmingly favor aggressive energy exploration, as they believe it would boost the economy. The Keystone XL Pipeline is an economic catalyst that will serve the national interest at a pivotal moment. The administration should allow the project to move forward.

Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican from Colorado, is the chairman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade.