Our Views: A worthy oil project

In the long history of criticism and even abuse of the United States Department of State, the words “common sense” are obviously frequently absent. Yet common sense is what the department’s analysts offer to critics of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline.

For some environmentalists, whose opinions are influential in the Obama administration, it is obviously a danger to the environment to build a pipeline carrying heavy crude from Alberta into the United States to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The crude is more “carbon-intensive” as it is refined and used, but Alberta is hardly the only source of heavier crude.

The 830,000 barrels of oil per day Keystone would carry is hardly going to be the make-or-break environmental issue of our time. Nevertheless, some in the environmental community don’t want this new outlet for it.

Instead of those flimsy arguments, apply a little common sense, like the State Department did.

Because the pipeline crosses the border, the department is required to assess whether the project is in the interest of the United States. And the department’s analysts came to the conclusion that one way or another, that crude will be refined and burned — somewhere.

The new pipeline “remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.”

What will happen to the Alberta crude if the United States refuses to permit this pipeline project? The Chinese are already looking at the prospect of a pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific, where tankers could carry the crude to its refineries.

The State Department report could hardly cause a diplomatic ruckus by noting that the Chinese refining and use of the Alberta crude will certainly be dirtier and more polluting than in this country. But that’s another common-sense reality of the Keystone XL debate.

This is no less than the fifth time that the State Department has been tasked with an assessment of the Keystone project. We hope it is the last and that President Barack Obama will no longer drag his heels on what is a job-creating project.

“What other single project has the positive jobs benefit, positive energy security benefit, with five clean environmental impact statements?” asked U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., after the new report was released. “No other one.”

His comments are spot on, and the nation would benefit from another reliable energy source from our neighbors to the north.