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Jim Jones bucks Obama on Keystone XL pipeline

Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones called today for quick action on the Keystone XL pipeline construction, directly opposing the White House he worked for only a few months ago. Jones, who rarely speaks in public and almost never contradicts his former boss President Barack Obama, lashed out against the administration in a press call ...

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Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones called today for quick action on the Keystone XL pipeline construction, directly opposing the White House he worked for only a few months ago.

Jones, who rarely speaks in public and almost never contradicts his former boss President Barack Obama, lashed out against the administration in a press call and warned of grave consequences to U.S. national security if the project to build the pipeline doesn’t move forward immediately. The call was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute and Jones was joined on the call by API President and CEO Jack Gerard.

"In a tightly contested global economy, where securing energy resources is a national must, we should be able to act with speed and agility. And any threat to this project, by delay or otherwise, would constitute a significant setback," said Jones. "The failure to [move forward with the project] will prolong the risk to our economy and our energy security" and "send the wrong message to job creators."

The comments come at the worst possible moment for the Obama administration, which is trying to beat back an effort from congressional Republicans to attach language that would force a decision on the pipeline to legislation that extends unemployment insurance and the payroll tax holiday for middle class Americans.

Obama has promised to veto any bill that comes to his desk with the Keystone XL pipeline language, and the State Department has said that if it is forced to come to a quick decision on the pipeline, that decision would be no because there has not been enough time to properly evaluate environmental and logistical considerations.

The Cable asked Jones if he was getting paid by API for supporting its cause. Jones said he was not getting paid, and was speaking out because he believed in the pipeline cause.

"I’ve known Jack Gerard for a number of years… and when he called me a few days ago and asked me if I was willing to participate in this because of my interest in energy issues, I agreed to do so," Jones said.

Jones said the project was an important piece of the U.S.-Canada relationship and that if the United States doesn’t act, Canada may decide to cancel the project and give its energy resources to the Chinese. He also said if they United States doesn’t move forward with the pipeline, that would be another signal of fading U.S. leadership in the world.

"If we get to a point where the nation cannot bring itself to do, for whatever reason, those things that we all know is in our national interest… then we are definitely in a period of decline in terms of our global leadership and in terms of our ability to compete in the 21st century," said Jones.

Jones said that he was not in touch with the administration directly on this issue, but that he told Obama personally just before resigning that Obama had a chance to be the "energy president," but was failing to distinguish himself on the issue.

"I do not think the United States has a comprehensive strategy for energy writ large and that’s a critical shortfall. Nor do I think we are properly organized," Jones said. "In my last few days I communicated that to the president."

UPDATE: A reader passes on this 2008 article from ThinkProgress that points out Jones was the  Institute for 21st Century Energy, a organization closely affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  According to the article, Jones’ Transition Plan at the Institute "calls for billions of dollars in subsidies for the nuclear and coal industry, a dramatic expansion in domestic oil and natural gas drilling into protected areas, and massive new energy industry tax breaks and loopholes."

Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones called today for quick action on the Keystone XL pipeline construction, directly opposing the White House he worked for only a few months ago.

Jones, who rarely speaks in public and almost never contradicts his former boss President Barack Obama, lashed out against the administration in a press call and warned of grave consequences to U.S. national security if the project to build the pipeline doesn’t move forward immediately. The call was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute and Jones was joined on the call by API President and CEO Jack Gerard.

"In a tightly contested global economy, where securing energy resources is a national must, we should be able to act with speed and agility. And any threat to this project, by delay or otherwise, would constitute a significant setback," said Jones. "The failure to [move forward with the project] will prolong the risk to our economy and our energy security" and "send the wrong message to job creators."

The comments come at the worst possible moment for the Obama administration, which is trying to beat back an effort from congressional Republicans to attach language that would force a decision on the pipeline to legislation that extends unemployment insurance and the payroll tax holiday for middle class Americans.

Obama has promised to veto any bill that comes to his desk with the Keystone XL pipeline language, and the State Department has said that if it is forced to come to a quick decision on the pipeline, that decision would be no because there has not been enough time to properly evaluate environmental and logistical considerations.

The Cable asked Jones if he was getting paid by API for supporting its cause. Jones said he was not getting paid, and was speaking out because he believed in the pipeline cause.

"I’ve known Jack Gerard for a number of years… and when he called me a few days ago and asked me if I was willing to participate in this because of my interest in energy issues, I agreed to do so," Jones said.

Jones said the project was an important piece of the U.S.-Canada relationship and that if the United States doesn’t act, Canada may decide to cancel the project and give its energy resources to the Chinese. He also said if they United States doesn’t move forward with the pipeline, that would be another signal of fading U.S. leadership in the world.

"If we get to a point where the nation cannot bring itself to do, for whatever reason, those things that we all know is in our national interest… then we are definitely in a period of decline in terms of our global leadership and in terms of our ability to compete in the 21st century," said Jones.

Jones said that he was not in touch with the administration directly on this issue, but that he told Obama personally just before resigning that Obama had a chance to be the "energy president," but was failing to distinguish himself on the issue.

"I do not think the United States has a comprehensive strategy for energy writ large and that’s a critical shortfall. Nor do I think we are properly organized," Jones said. "In my last few days I communicated that to the president."

UPDATE: A reader passes on this 2008 article from ThinkProgress that points out Jones was the  Institute for 21st Century Energy, a organization closely affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  According to the article, Jones’ Transition Plan at the Institute "calls for billions of dollars in subsidies for the nuclear and coal industry, a dramatic expansion in domestic oil and natural gas drilling into protected areas, and massive new energy industry tax breaks and loopholes."

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 josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.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. Twitter: @joshrogin

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