August 29 2011

A Pivot to Jobs? Start By Approving The Keystone Pipeline

Carrie L. Lukas

President Obama cut his vacation short because of Hurricane Irene, but we still aren't expected his much awaited "jobs plan" until September. Will the President go back to the Keynesian trough and offer another enormous government spending package? How can he do this and still feign concern about our out-of-control national debt?

I imagine that the White House p.r. team is as big a part of the decision-making process on this one as his policy gurus. The White House seems to have no idea what might actually help the economy-or at least be unwilling to contemplate the kind of scaling back of big government and deregulation that would be most likely to provide real relief to the private sector-so that this plan is primarily posturing for the next election, rather than a true policy proposal.

Here's one item that the White House should move quickly on, both from a policy and a p.r. level: approve the Keystone pipeline that would allow the U.S. to begin refining oil produced by Canada's oil sands.

Robert Samuelson has a good piece today which urges the White House to move on this. There are environmental concerns-there always are with pipelines and this kind of energy development-but if the United States doesn't move forward with this project, then Canada will find another, much less environmentally conscious one, which would cause more environmental harm. And, as Samuelson details, this could be a real job creator:

By all logic, the administration's Keystone decision -- overseen by the State Department, which issued a final environmental impact statement last week -- should be a snap. Obama wants job creation. Well, TransCanada, the pipeline's sponsor, says the project should result in 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs. Most would be American, because 80 percent of the 1,661-mile pipeline would be in the United States. Continued development of oil sands would also help the U.S. economy; hundreds of American companies sell oil services in Canada. Finally, production technologies are gradually reducing environmental side effects, including greenhouse emissions.

Will the Obama Administration accept this common sense advice or is it too worried about further angering environmentalists, who are a big part of donor and volunteer base?

I'd hope that Obama's re-election team would recognize that showing that it is trying--truly trying to not stand in the way of all private sector job creation and not just kowtowing to interest groups, like it has in the Boeing-South Caroline debacle--would be a more important signal to Independents and working folks.

As a political calculation, those benefits in dampening the outrage of moderate voters seem to outweigh the slight downside of angering environmentalists. And certainly, that it is actually good policy, and might create real, productive private sector jobs, should be at least a bonus? I hope?

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