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Senate Dems urge Obama to approve Keystone XL pipeline

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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President Obama boasted last week that the U.S. now produces more oil domestically than it imports, partly crediting his administration’s policies aimed at lowering the country’s reliance on foreign oil.

While this was welcome news to many in his party, Obama was still hit by Senate Democrats for failing to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that anyone from the administration has ever gone up to see the oil sands and so I would challenge the administration to go up and see the oil sands,” said North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in a video by the Pro-Keystone group Oil Sands Fact Check. “Go up and see what’s happening and go up and think about the potential of an energy independent North America.”

“It just makes sense,” added West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. “First of all, our friendliest nation Canada has oil. They’re going to produce it and they’re going to sell it.  And I’d rather buy it from my friends than my enemies. So this is more of a security thing.”

Keystone’s approval has been in limbo for more than five years. It has been heavily opposed by environmentalists who argue that the project would contribute to global warming and that oil spills threaten the environment in the pipeline’s path.

“There is great tyranny in the current labeling and shipment of tar sands diluted bitumen as if it’s one-hundred-percent petroleum crude oil,” said Aly Tharp with the Tar Sands Blockade and the Texas Action Coalition for the Environment.

“In reality, tar sands is a synthetic and highly toxic petroleum slurry that is also tax exempt from the government oil spill cleanup fund. It is certainly not in the interest of the land, water and people of the USA and Canada to approve the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline and enable these toxins to pollute our homes and wreck our atmosphere,” Tharp continued.

The pipeline would bring 830,000 barrels of oil per day from the tar sands oil field in Alberta, Canada to Texas refineries on the Gulf Coast. Pipeline proponents argue that the project would create jobs and move the U.S. toward greater energy independence.

“This is a bipartisan effort by all of us,” said Alaska Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat. “There’s no question — this is about jobs for America; about jobs that will not only will happen during construction season but throughout the period of time afterwards when its refined and utilized in our markets.”

Earlier this summer, Obama said that he would only approve the pipeline if it did not significantly add to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions — which his own State Department said it wouldn’t.

Environmentalists have funded studies that show the pipeline would raise U.S. carbon emissions and, therefore, fails Obama’s climate test. One study by the Sierra Club argues that tar sands oil is the world’s “dirtiest” source of oil in terms of carbon emissions.

“Keystone XL is a climate disaster. The president set a tough climate test for the pipeline, which it clearly fails to pass. There is no wiggle room here, Mr. President,” said Michael Brune, the club’s executive director.

However, this report runs up against an earlier analysis from the State Department which found that the pipeline would not significantly add to carbon emissions as tar sands oil will be extracted and brought to market regardless of whether or not the pipeline is approved.

“A more energy independent nation is going to be a more secure nation.  I’m proud to be here with both of my colleagues on the Republican and Democrat side — having a common sense approach for a problem that should have been solved many  years ago,” Manchin added in the video.

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