The Oscar for Best Picture last month went to Argo, the Ben Affleck movie about the Canadian government’s help in spiriting U.S. diplomats out of Iran during the hostage crisis – which underscores the United States’ historic relationship with its closest ally, Canada. Back in the real world, however, the Obama administration is on the verge of severely damaging this strategic partnership with its poor handling of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The State Department’s favorable draft environmental analysis, released on Friday, should pave the way for final administration approval of the pipeline. Of course, the State Department has already gone through this process once before. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deemed Keystone XL to be in the national interest – only to have President Barack Obama shelve the project in January 2012, during the run-up to his re-election campaign.
If Secretary of State John Kerry reaches the same conclusion as Clinton, as expected in coming weeks, the ball will be back in Obama’s court and the ultimate decision on this important project will be in his hands.
Obama must weigh the thousands of high-paying manufacturing and construction jobs that Keystone XL would create in the United States against the pressure to reject the project from environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. If the Obama administration gives Keystone the thumbs-down, not only would the White House unnecessarily forgo a project that would lead to significant job creation, domestic investment and reduced government debt but it would also do great damage to Washington’s relationship with our neighbors to the north.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called approval of the $7 billion pipeline a “no-brainer.” Which gives you a clue what he would think of Obama if the U.S. president rejected the deal. Other high-ranking Canadian officials have made it clear that such an action would be a diplomatic slap in the face. They have asserted that the oil-sands production would then be brought to market elsewhere. Meanwhile, they say, the U.S. could continue purchasing crude oil from Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, which Keystone XL could have replaced.