Politics

Senate Dems break with Obama on Keystone

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Senate Democrats are breaking ranks with the Obama administration on the Keystone XL pipeline and criticizing the president for downplaying the project’s economic benefits.

“It has taken this administration longer to make a decision on the Keystone pipeline than it took us to beat Hitler in WWII, which is pretty amazing,” said North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. “Working with our good friends to the North, it is in America’s interest to include Canadian resources in our resource mix.”

North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven and Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu introduced a joint resolution on Wednesday that would keep pressure on the president to approve the pipeline. In March, an amendment introduced by Hoeven and Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, which put the Senate on record in support of Keystone XL, passed 62 to 37.

“We have studied this project for long enough. We know its tremendous economic benefits and the critical role it will have for our nation’s energy security. With Nebraska now on board, every state involved has realized this project is a job creator with minimal effects on the environment,” Landrieu said.

Earlier this summer, Obama said that Keystone XL should only be approved if it does not significantly contribute to global warming, making this an environmental rather than economic issue.

In an interview with The New York Times, the president downplayed the economic benefits of approving the pipeline.

“My hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline — which might take a year or two — and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 [chuckles] jobs in a economy of 150 million working people,” Obama told the Times.

“So what we also know is, is that that oil is going to be piped down to the Gulf to be sold on the world oil markets, so it does not bring down gas prices here in the United States,” Obama added. “In fact, it might actually cause some gas prices in the Midwest to go up where currently they can’t ship some of that oil to world markets.”

However, The Washington Post reports that Obama’s jobs claim may have come from a Cornell University think tank study which found that the pipeline would create 5,000 jobs over two years — 2,500 per year.

The Obama State Department estimated earlier this year that the pipeline would create 42,100 jobs during the pipeline’s construction, and it’s been reported that building the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline created 4,000 jobs.

“It is not logical to think a $7.6 billion dollar infrastructure project stretching across the entire breadth of the continental U.S. wouldn’t employ thousands of workers both in the manufacturing sector and in constructing the pipeline,” wrote TransCanada spokesman James Millar. “I think the Americans we have put to work so far appreciate the fact they have been able to put food on the table for their families by helping to build Keystone.”

On gas prices, Obama’s remarks mirror those made by the left-wing group Consumer Watchdog, which reported recently that the Keystone pipeline would raise gas prices 20 to 40 cents in the Midwest, and won’t yield any long-term benefits for the U.S. economy.

The Consumer Watchdog report was backed by former hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer, who has spent millions backing environmental and Democratic causes. Steyer was recently criticized for making millions at his old hedge fund Farallon Capital by investing in fossil fuels, only to turn around and try and prevent others from doing so. The San Francisco billionaire was also hit for possibly holding investments in Keystone’s competitors.

“I think it’s hypocrisy, quite frankly,” Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter told Fox News. “Who knows when he’s going to divest of these investments … maybe in a few months when his helping kill Keystone will boost them up to top value. … Who knows?”

Steyer admitted his investments in a competing pipeline company would generate between $1 million and $2 million in profits, but promised to divest himself of those shares at the end of the year and donate all the profits to the victims of wildfires.

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