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Even After Sandy, Environment Takes a Backseat to the Economy

The Exchange

Does the economy trump the environment? In the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, the reality increasingly appears to be yes, regardless of whether you believe that climate change helped turbocharge Hurricane Sandy into a potentially $60 billion wrecking machine.

America's oil and natural gas industry have been ratcheting up calls for President Obama to give long-awaited approval for a TransCanada (TRP) pipeline that would carry some 1 million barrels of oil per day from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.  In congratulating Obama's re-election victory, the American Petroleum Institute jumped on the pipeline as a first order of business to help create jobs, generate government revenue and "strengthen our energy and national security." Pushing for Keystone approval has been API's focus ever since.

"It's a fundamental infrastructure question," said Jack Gerard, API's president and CEO, in an interview with Environment and Energy News this week. "Are we going to build the infrastructure of the United States to move energy we need to fuel this economy, or are we going to obstruct individual projects which ultimately increase the cost of energy to consumers."

Gerard went on to call climate change a "secondary issue" to the economy and jobs for the American public, a sentiment that was echoed by President Obama during a White House press conference on Wednesday.

"There's no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices," said the president. "And understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody is going to go for that.  I won't go for that."

These comments have lent further credence to growing reports that approval of the project is likely to come sooner than later.

Meanwhile, there's more evidence that the environmental cost of tapping the Canadian oil sands is high. A study released this week found that oil sands refined in the U.S. released 9% more greenhouse gasses than other types of oil. Energy research group IHS CERA "analyzed data from government, academic and industry sources to conclude that oil sands were more carbon intensive than thought two years ago," reported Reuters.

Regardless of Obama's approval, Canada will continue to mine a 54,000-square-mile area, the impact of which you can fully grasp here, thanks to Business Insider. These photos were published with permission from Business Insider Military and Defense.