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US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

  • Michael Bowman

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. The pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.

In a nation reliant on fossil fuels, Keystone proponents promise a better future if the pipeline is built.

“Energy independence for our nation is possible, for the first time ever,” said Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, a backer.

Opponents warn of an ecological disaster with a high human cost.

“Every dollar that we spend today on developing and using more fossil fuels is another dollar spent in digging the graves of our grandchildren,” warned Democratic Senator Tom Harkin.

At issue: expansion of North American pipelines to send an extra 830,000 barrels of Canadian oil daily to U.S. Gulf states. Environmentalists say the oil is not needed and will boost global greenhouse gases. Public Citizen Energy Program director Tyson Slocum said the project is unnecessary,

“You’ve got countries like the United States and others that have stepped up oil production, and so it’s safe to predict that for the next several years we’re not going to be threatened by the types of supply-demand balance problems that caused the crisis in oil markets to push prices up," said Slocum.

Pipeline advocates note that reliable, affordable energy is a global concern. Heritage Foundation energy economist Nick Loris, argued that the pipeline would provide greater access to affordable energy.

“We need to get more people access to conventional fuels and affordable and reliable energy. And if you look at what people say, according to United Nations surveys and things of that nature, up at the top of that list is access to affordable, reliable energy, and down at the bottom of that list is action on climate change,” said Loris.

The Republican-led House of Representatives approved the pipeline last week. Senate backers fell one vote shy of the three-fifths majority required for passage, but congressional approval is likely next year, when Republicans will control both houses. The pipeline has strong support from Republican Mitch McConnell, who will be Senate Majority Leader in January, and has already promised an early vote.

“Keystone XL is just common sense. It’s a shovel-ready jobs project that would help thousands of Americans find work, it would increase our supply of North American energy, and do all that with minimal net climate impact. That is why the American people support it,” said McConnell.

The White House has hinted at a veto if and when the project is approved. President Obama is a proponent of alternative energy sources, as is Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.

“Let me tell you how you get energy independence. You produce what you can here, and we have been doing that where it's appropriate, and you also utilize the sun, and the wind, and the geothermal and the clean energies of the future that believe me when you embrace the clean energy agenda, you get far more jobs, you don’t have pollution,” said Boxer.

Polls show Americans are concerned about climate change, but are also eager for cheaper fuel and more jobs.

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