President Barack Obama may have rejected the construction of the highly controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, but the story is far from over.
Republican lawmakers last week said they want to circumvent the White House by asking the Federal Regulatory Commission to issue a permit for the pipeline. The House Energy and Commerce Committee could vote on legislation authorizing the federal agency's approval this week. According to a weekend report in Reuters, Republicans may link the pipeline to the payroll tax cut bill. Lawmakers have until Feb. 29 to extend the popular tax break.
"The Keystone pipeline is a prime example of a shovel-ready project that's been through every approval process here in Washington," said House Speaker John Boehner in the Reuters article. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure this Keystone pipeline project is approved."
The 1,700-mile Keystone pipeline would have run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and cost $7 billion to build. Republicans, energy companies and labor groups supported the pipeline while environmentalists and many Democrats fought its construction. Obama said he decided to halt the project because the 60-day congressionally imposed deadline was "rushed and arbitrary" and too short to weigh the environmental risks.
A decision on the project was required by Feb. 21. Calgary-based TransCanada (TRP), the pipeline's sponsor, can reapply to build it, but the new route must bypass the ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region in Nebraska.
Jan Stuart, the head of energy research at Credit Suisse, says the Keystone pipeline will eventually be built.
"U.S. and Canada are each other's best customers," he tells The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task in the accompanying clip. "Sponsors of the pipeline have invested significant amounts of money and time and capital into this project. I don't think this thing is dead, no."
TransCanada CEO Russ Girling responded to Obama's rejection by saying the company "remains fully committed to the construction of Keystone XL" and "a new application would be processed in an expedited manner to allow for an in-service date of lat2 2014."
The pipeline would have created jobs in the U.S., but the actual number of jobs varied from source to source. A study conducted by TransCanada said 100,000 workers would have been hired, while the State Department projected 5,000 to 6,000 jobs. An independent analysis by Cornell University predicted just 2,500 to 4,650 temporary jobs.
The pipeline may have offered opportunities for the unemployed, but it would have had zero impact on gasoline prices, said Stuart. Despite the environmental risks and heavy opposition, Stuart says the pipeline would be an important development in the energy industry.
"There's a necessity for pipelines like that; there is an appetite for pipelines," he maintains. The energy industry has "been working on trying to get some sort of transit corridor established across the [Canadian] mountains…for 25 years. We're not making any progress."