The ghost of the Keystone XL pipeline returns to haunt Obama

We spent almost all of last year peering at the Swing States… so much so that some of us will be quite happy to not hear about them again for a long time. (Unless, of course, the Cleveland Indians make the playoffs, in which case we’ll make an exception for Ohio.) But with the election over and a new year upon us, hopefully we can look at some different states. And there’s no better place to start than Nebraska.

Out in the Cornhusker State, Governor Dave Heineman is currently facing a decision on a topic which some people may have thought had died with the last election results… the Keystone Pipeline. Yes, it’s back.

One of the first challenges Obama will face is an old problem: whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. Obama blocked the pipeline last year, citing uncertainty over the conduit’s route through environmentally sensitive land in Nebraska. Gov. Dave Heineman is considering a new route; he is expected to make a decision next month.

The State Department has federal jurisdiction because the $7 billion pipeline begins in Canada.

Perhaps the Governor’s decision will become a bit easier when he gets a look at the latest study on both the environmental and economic impacts of the project.

A new study commissioned by supporters of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline says Nebraska could reap close to $2 billion in economic benefits if the project were built.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, hired to conduct the analysis, said pipeline construction would create several thousand Nebraska jobs while ongoing operations would result in several hundred positions. Over the next 16 years, the pipeline would generate close to $60 million in property tax revenue for the counties where it would be located, Goss said.

In addition to addressing lingering environmental protests and the jobs and tax revenue mentioned above, it provides additional specifics.

– TransCanada will spend about $580 million in the state during the two-year construction phase and $570 million more during subsequent years of operation.

– The project would create 5,500 jobs during construction and 302 jobs afterward. The figures include both direct and indirect jobs, paying an average annual salary of $38,000

– Pipeline construction would produce $418 million in economic benefits and 4,560 jobs.

Given the still stumbling nature of the economy and the economic uncertainty facing most states these days, it is difficult to imagine how any governor could look at this offering and walk away. (Not if they hope to survive another election cycle, anyway.) And if it’s approved at the state level, the President will have the same old dilemma back on his plate. Will he choose to make good on his campaign claims that he favors an “all of the above” energy policy which allows us to take charge of our own energy future? Or will he wait around for that car that runs on algae to finally make it into production?

Place your bets.