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Protesters rally about the Keystone XL oil pipeline along U.S. President Barack Obama Protesters rally about the Keystone XL oil pipeline along U.S. President Barack Obama's motorcade as he arrives at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas  

General: Rejecting Keystone would ‘make Mr. Putin’s day’

Rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline would only strengthen Russia’s hand and hurt American energy security, retired Marine Corps General James Jones told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Gen. Jones told the Senate that Keystone XL was a “litmus test” to see if the U.S. is serious about energy security, adding that “international bullies,” including Russia, “are watching intently.” Jones and other proponents argue that Keystone’s approval would increase U.S. energy security and help the economy.

“So if we want to make Mr. Putin’s day and strengthen his hand, we should reject Keystone,” Jones said. “If we want to gain an important measure of national energy security … then it should be approved.”

The State Department is on the verge of determining whether Keystone is in the national interest. President Obama said that he would only back the pipeline if it did not significantly add to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

Environmentalists argued before the Senate on Thursday that Keystone would not be in the national interest since it would pose environmental risks and cause more global warming. Keystone opponents argue that building the pipeline would drive more Canadian oil sands production which would significantly add to global warming.

“The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is not in the national interest,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told the Senate. “Approving Keystone XL would be a step backward and would jeopardize the stability our our climate, the strength of our economy, and our children’s futures.”

Environmentalists were able to submit two million comments to the State Department in opposition to Keystone. But nearly half of those comments are from foreigners. The liberal group Avaaz sent in 954,827 to the State Department, only 65,938 of those comments were from the U.S. and 66,817 were from Canada. The other 820,000-plus comments came from foreigners.

Keystone supporters submitted about one million comments — all from registered U.S. voters. Proponents argue that Keystone will improve U.S. energy security, create jobs and help the economy.

Proponents also point out that the State Department found that the pipeline would not significantly impact global warming or the environment.

“Keystone XL exceeds all the criteria under consideration in the National Interest Determination period,” said Cindy Schild with the American Petroleum Institute. “As remaining factors like energy and economic security benefits, stability of the supply, relations with Canada, our top trading partner are considered, it will be only more evident that approval is the only decision that is best for Americans.”

“This project will create more than 42,000 jobs and enhance our energy security. The time for study is over,” said Schild. “The Obama administration has all the evidence it needs to approve the KXL now.”

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