One of the reasons that the smart money is betting on the Keystone XL pipeline expansion to go forward is that the project is driven by a clear-eyed realism about our energy, economic and — in what is indisputable in a world driven by revolution and social upheaval — our political and security needs. For Texas, the good news is that the pipeline will bring an estimated $2.3 billion in new investment to the state economy at that exact point in time when the risk of another business and hiring downturn is as high as it’s been in years. Substantial investment — and the jobs that come with it — will happen all along the pipeline route, including here in Angelina County.
The realism on Keystone begins with the sobering outlook for significantly higher oil consumption in the global economy. The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) predicts that worldwide energy consumption will surge 53 percent between 2008 and 2035, with about half of the growth coming from China and India. Some 80 percent of the world’s energy will continue to be based on fossil fuels in 2035.
In the United States, half of our energy will still be generated from petroleum products 25 years from now. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t develop affordable, advanced technologies to bring alternative fuels to the marketplace. Far from it, and given the history of technology we know that breakthroughs can come suddenly and unexpectedly. But the EIA’s energy outlook provides a needful reminder that the world’s largest economy will require oil for a long time to come.
Which presents us with another important question: Where will we get that oil? In recent comments, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has hinted that the Obama administration is leaning toward approval of Keystone XL and one of the reasons why is that Canada looks a lot more politically appealing than other sources these days in the Middle East and elsewhere.
“Having Canada as a supplier for our oil is much more comforting than having other countries supply our oil,” Chu said. Canada, our largest and friendliest trading partner, wants nothing more than to link its vast Alberta oil sand deposits to Texas refineries via Keystone. The oil in Alberta is second only in size to the reserves held by Saudi Arabia.
For anyone concerned about Texas manufacturing and its 838,000 employees, Keystone promises to provide a stable source of energy for decades to come, not to mention thousands of jobs to build and maintain it. That’s an unqualified advantage for the regional economy.
Affordable, reliable energy is a top priority for Texas manufacturers and a major contributor to future job growth. This is important because Texas manufacturing accounts for some 13 percent of state economic output and manufacturing wages and benefits are about 34 percent more than the rest of the Texas workforce. Manufacturing jobs are among the state’s best jobs and we need to do all we can to create more of them. The Keystone XL is primed to deliver tens of thousands of good jobs and tremendous economic opportunity.
Opponents of the pipeline have cited concerns about the effects Keystone XL will have on the atmosphere, but their case is unconvincing. Pipelines are the safest, most efficient way to transport resources like oil and gas. Proposing trucking as an alternative would only increase air emissions. Environmental precautions are a priority in any project like this and the U.S. State Department’s own Environmental Impact Study on the Keystone XL concluded that there would be “no significant impacts to most resources” along the route if managed properly.
For American and Texan working families, the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline will enhance our energy security, tighten the bond with our most reliable trading partner, and create jobs at the precise moment when we need them most. It’s time to embrace reality and push the project forward without delay.
Luke Bellsnyder is the executive director of the Texas Association of Manufacturers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.