White House: Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is still a possibility

TransCanada, the company behind the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast, has resubmitted its application for approval from the administration — and the Obama administration today announced that the president just might say “yes” to the plan this time around.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney used the announcement to hammer Republicans, saying, “House Republicans forced a rejection of the company’s earlier application in January, by not allowing sufficient time for important review or even the identification of a complete pipeline route.”

“But as we made clear, the president’s decision in January in no way prejudged future applications. We will ensure any project receives the important assessment it deserves and will base a decision to provide a permit on the completion of that review,” Carney added.

Republicans remained cautious in their response, arguing the news that a new pipeline route is being considered raises fresh questions about the administration’s previous opposition.

“It’s good news that progress is continuing on a project that would create tens of thousands of American jobs and keep Canada from selling North American energy to the Chinese, but it also makes the Obama administration’s refusal to approve it even more disturbing,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (Ohio).

Boehner’s spokesperson is right: All politics aside, this is good news. Remember: This is a project that would create — by the State Department’s own estimate — 5,000 to 6,000 U.S. jobs. TransCanada suggests it would create 20,000 jobs in the United States — 13,000 in construction and 7,000 in manufacturing. Other estimates put the number even higher — up to the hundreds of thousands.

KXL would yield benefits beyond jobs, too. Construction of the pipeline would bring us closer to energy independence and leave us less reliant on “unethical oil.”  According to one source, the pipeline would carry more energy to the United States than the sum of all the green energy projects funded by the Obama administration — and it would do it at no cost to taxpayers. Contrary to environmentalists’ claims, the pipeline might actually be better for the environment than no pipeline at all. After all, if it isn’t constructed, oil companies will still transport oil — but by low-speed rail, which poses its own environmental risks.

The president should have approved the construction of the pipeline in the first place, but at least his “no” didn’t completely deter the company behind the proposed project.

Still, nobody should be so naive as to think the president will move swiftly on this. He hasn’t agreed to make a decision on this new application within any specific time frame, as he did on the last one. He can — and probably will — delay a final verdict until after November 2012. TransCanada’s second application merely allows the president to play this both ways. As high gas prices call attention to the president’s awful energy policies, he needs to be able to say he’s doing something — anything — to make affordable energy accessible to Americans. Reconsidering KXL is that “something.” Actually approving it would cost him support with environmentalists — but delaying a decision while dangling the possibility of approval in front of overwhelmed U.S. energy consumers does absolutely nothing to hurt his reelection chances.