Opportunity in the Pipeline
Jun 11, 2014 | 1112 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Russia's state-run energy company, Gazprom, just hiked gas prices a whopping 44 percent in Ukraine, ratcheting up pressure on the torn nation.

Putin has always understood his country's vast energy supply is its true foreign policy strength - that's why he took Gazprom into the Kremlin shortly after taking office in 2000.

But the United States also has substantial energy resources -- ones that rival both Russia's and Saudi Arabia's-- that must be used to reinforce our security both at home and abroad.

Federal agencies would do well to keep this in mind as they weigh the merits of the Keystone pipeline, TransCanada's proposed $7 billion investment in American energy infrastructure.

As part of a National Interest Determination, cabinet agencies must assess whether the proposed pipeline would further American environmental, health, national security, foreign-policy, and economic interests. In this final, decisive phase, agencies must acknowledge the diverse benefits of Keystone.

For example, the Defense Department would be hard pressed to ignore that energy policy is increasingly linked to national security and foreign policy. Keystone offers the opportunity for the United States to make the most of its energy assets.

A more efficient energy infrastructure not only results in a more efficient military, as Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has noted; it also bolsters foreign-policy efforts that help avoid the use of force. As James Jones, President Obama's former national-security adviser, explained to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "international bullies" are watching Keystone's approval process intently.

Right now, Gazprom supplies up to one-fourth of all of Europe's energy. Putin has manipulated this demand to achieve his geopolitical goals. He's repeatedly "kinked" the gas lines in Russia causing major problems for our allies abroad, communicating that while some nations in Europe have a nice citizenry, it would be a shame if some were to freeze during the winter.

At the mercy of Russia's energy monopoly, his European buyers have now learned to think twice before resisting the Kremlin's agenda.

Russia isn't the only country using energy to further its international demands; Iran and Venezuela have used "the threat of energy scarcity" to "intimidate and manipulate vulnerable populations," as Jones noted. By strengthening America's energy industry, Keystone could contribute to a more stable world order.

Keystone would also allow the United States to rely more on our own energy, reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil while increasing oil imports from allies such as Canada and Norway. The Department of Energy already noted that Keystone would transport the equivalent of about half of America's current Middle Eastern energy imports.

Approval of Keystone would also have a significant impact domestically.

The economic benefits of this privately funded, shovel-ready project are substantial. Keystone would generate more than $20 billion in private investment in creating at least 42,000 American jobs, many of which would be union, while adding $6.5 billion in the pockets of citizens -- giving the Departments of Commerce and Labor reasons to celebrate.

The Department of Transportation also has good reason to support Keystone. North America's existing transportation infrastructure has strained to keep up with its energy production, sometimes to dangerous results.

Last year saw the some of the busiest rail traffic in American history, in large part because of increased petroleum production. In the aftermath of the explosive train derailment in Casselton, North Dakota and the tragic Lac-M├ęgantic, Quebec accident, many experts are looking to the pipeline to provide a safer and more environmentally friendly option than rail. Without pipeline approval, 1,400 oil-moving rail cars will pass through North Dakota and Minnesota every day.

Federal agencies must consider the all aspects of this project. Especially in light of Russia's recent actions, its overwhelming clear that the pipeline is in our nation's best interest. Americans have waited on the government to decide on Keystone for over five years. Now, they deserve an up or down decision, not another delay.

Michael James Barton is the Director for Energy at ARTIS Research, and speaks around the country on energy and energy security matters. He previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon.
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