If you’re inclined to be surprised by this, think again. Unions want the Keystone XL pipeline to be built, as it will employ thousands of dues-paying members for years on the project, and they need the private-sector jobs just as much as the rest of the country does, if not more. Ed Schultz frames this endorsement as a safety issue — and it is — but you can bet your bottom dollar that Ed’s bottom dollar is talking here:

Based on safety I think the President should give this project the stamp of approval. Environmental groups obviously think differently. And so do the majority of people on the left. But this newsflash: We’re not getting out of the oil business in America. It runs our economy. Do we have climate change? Yes we do. But the construction of this pipeline does not mean we are going to consume more as a country.

I’m looking at it at from a safety aspect. I don’t explosions in small towns or any towns, or any kind of train derailment carrying oil, where there are fewer federal inspectors than ever before, and also the fact that these railcars are old and the infrastructure hasn’t been upgraded. So a brand-new pipeline, to me, makes sense.

On the safety issue, the State Department agrees that Keystone will save six lives a year, based on derailment issues on trains that now have to transport crude from the Bakken formation:

Although it excluded the runaway oil train derailment that killed 47 people in Lac Megantic, Quebec, last summer, the tragedy that first shone a critical light on the rapidly expanding trend in shipping crude by rail, the findings highlight the risks or railway transport versus pipes.

Shipping another 830,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude “would result in an estimated 49 additional injuries and six additional fatalities for the No Action rail scenarios compared to one additional injury and no fatalities” per year if Keystone XL is built, according to the report.

Keystone XL would carry 830,000 bpd from Alberta’s oil sands U.S. refiners, but has been awaiting a presidential permit for more than five years. The “No Action” options refer to the likely alternative outcomes if Obama rejects the permit or the project is not built for some other reason.

The report also showed that carrying crude by rail, instead of by pipeline, was likely to result in a higher number of oil spills and a larger amount of leakage over time.

 

Don’t expect the Schultz endorsement to make this a no-brainer for the White House, though, even with the backing of the unions. The environmental-activist base promises to make this a “sit on our hands” issue in the midterms if Obama moves forward with it — and maybe worse:

But critics say approval of the project could sow liberal discontent and hurt Democratic chances in 2014 — including a host of contests that will likely decide who controls the Senate during the final years of the Obama White House.

“It is very likely that there will be negative consequences for Democrats if Keystone were approved,” said Kate Colarulli, the associate director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil campaign. “This is a tremendous opportunity to protect the climate and build the Democratic base if Obama rejects Keystone XL.”

Green groups are promising acts of “civil disobedience,” if Obama signs off on the project and contend Keystone’s approval could torpedo the president’s broader climate change agenda.

The project is a no-brainer, except for the politics within the Democratic Party. The White House may decide that punting this to 2015 is their best option.