- By José R. CárdenasJose R. Cardenas was acting assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development in the George W. Bush administration.
Even as the civilized world wrestles with the question of how to confront a nuclear-bent Iran while avoiding a backlash against international oil prices, President Obama has just caved on a crucial decision that would have improved immeasurably the United States position in global energy markets, not to mention created thousands of jobs at home and improved U.S. energy security decades into the future.
The president’s decision today to reject a Canadian company’s application for a permit to build the Keystone-XL oil pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border once again represents a capitulation to a narrow public interest group — the Green Lobby — at the expense of the national welfare.
The split-the-baby decision that the Canadian company, TransCanada, can reapply for the permit after it has conducted yet another study of an alternative route (the process has been going on for three years) does not arrest the gravity of this misguided decision.
U.S. dithering has already cost TransCanada millions and China continues to lobby the Canadians hard for access to the same oil deposits that would be coming to the United States. (In a bitter irony, shipping Canadian oil to China would prove even more environmentally harmful than sending the oil across the U.S. border.)
According to the plan, the 36-inch pipeline would carry oil derived from sands in Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast, as much as 800,000 barrels of oil a day, doubling the capacity of an existing pipeline operated by the same Canadian company in the upper Midwest. The project would also create about 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs that will mean about $6.5 billion to American workers.
With their anti-pipeline activism, the Green Lobby continues trying to force upon the American people a day that hasn’t arrived yet: when renewable energy sources can effectively (read: profitably) compete against fossil fuels as the primary energy source that drives the U.S. economy. Not only is it the height of folly to believe that the American people can be coerced into using unprofitable technologies to warm and cool their homes or travel for work and leisure, it would effectively the mean the economic suicide of America.
No matter how much wishes for something different, fossil fuels are here to stay for the foreseeable future. And in our complicated world, where U.S. prosperity is impacted by wars, revolutions, and natural and man-made disasters that continuously roil global oil prices — and where arbitrary and capricious governments control a significant amount of known reserves — having dependable, friendly, and nearby suppliers is of incalculable benefit to the United States and a national security imperative.
The Green Lobby may be celebrating the president’s decision, but tomorrow morning the American people will still need to import 10 million barrels of oil a day to keep the lights on — and that means continuing to import oil from unfriendly and repressive regimes that use our money against us or whose conspicuous corruption fosters anti-American sentiment amongst their populations.
Common sense simply screams out that as a matter of national policy, wherever possible, we further integrate our energy and investment flows with countries that share our values and global outlook. With his decision today, the president failed to achieve that basic standard — and he will undoubtedly have to answer for it all the way to November.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |