Why Our National Security Demands the Keystone Pipeline

Posted on March 18, 2013 by


None other than Fareed Zakaria wrote an editorial this past week calling on President Obama’s administration to approve the Keystone Pipeline project. Considering Zakaria’s close affiliation with the political left, this should catch the President’s attention. I am a faithful reader of Time magazine, of which Zakaria is now editor at large after a decade of writing for Newsweek. I seldom agree with Zakaria’s conclusions but appreciate his intellect and fearlessness in taking on tough topics. His thinking on the pipeline is a rare example, however, of a willingness to think outside his normal ideological box.
I was shocked by the readiness of the American people to watch gasoline prices rise precipitously during the first administration of President Obama while the economy continued to stagnate and yet still reelect him. Given the historic propensity of Americans to vote their pocket book, this was puzzling. Nonetheless, more perplexing than the ambivalence of the American voter is the willingness of the current administration to keep the United States subservient to nations that hate us. The Keystone Pipeline rejection is an excellent example.
The Keystone Pipeline was designed to bring diluted bitumen derived from tar or oil sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries throughout the central United States and as far south as Texas. Bitumen can be used in place of crude oil in refining gasoline. Alberta ranks third in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela in terms of “proven crude oil reserves.” The Obama administration rejected the pipeline proposal back in early 2012 suggesting there had not been enough time to evaluate alternative routes. Given the outcry of environmental groups and their threats to withdraw support from the President in his reelection bid later that year, some speculated that this was simply a sop to his political base. The recent about-face by the Administration would tend to support the veracity of this argument.
While I am thankful that the President is beginning to come around on the pipeline, I am dismayed at his willingness to threaten the country’s security—both economic and national—for personal political benefit. Oil prices are shockingly high and have remained so for most of his administration. While his economic policies and economic stimulus plans have failed to turn around the economy, his energy policies have done little more than line the pockets of alternative energy investors (need I mention Solyndra?) and appease environmentalists. There is little new here in terms of political pandering, but what is disturbingly new is his willingness to enhance the risk the country faces by being so reliant on foreign sources of oil. The Keystone Pipeline is an excellent opportunity to reduce our reliance on foreign nations that hate us. Our relationship with Saudi Arabia has been pretty good for the last couple of decades, but the Arab Spring should show us that good relationships with Middle Eastern nations can evaporate very quickly. Our relationship with Venezuela was never good under Hugo Chavez and there is little reason to think that will change even after his passing. Conversely, Canada has been and remains our closest ally. With such substantial resources there, it makes good sense to enhance her ability to meet our energy needs.
I am glad to see the President beginning to demonstrate some common sense on this issue, but I am still dismayed by his track record. The prohibition on drilling in ANWR is one of many examples of fuzzy headed thinking. How can we allow an estimated thirty billion barrels of crude oil underneath American soil lie idle while we remain reliant on other nations? Should even one country in OPEC decide that they are going to place a premium on hurting us rather than making money, we could face an economic impact more devastating than an attack on our soil. Too often I read and hear Americans referring to the oil issue as simply a cost of living concern. For example, how often did we hear that the United States entered the Persian Gulf War because of oil? In many respects this is true, but it is not just about putting cheap gasoline in our tanks. The reality is that our economy is the foundation of our national security. As the economy goes, so goes our national security. While these decisions do need to be made with an eye to the potential environmental impact, the priority needs to be on human lives, not caribou lives. More importantly for the President, his priority needs to be on our national security, not on crass partisan considerations. Perhaps his recent bending is a step in the right direction.

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