The Real Reason Why the Keystone XL Pipeline Has Been Delayed

Mon November 04, 2013 - National Edition
Giles Lambertson

There is a good reason why the Keystone XL pipeline still isn’t built: Someone doesn’t want it built and has enough clout to stop it. Case closed.

That’s the American way. Construction projects proceed only when they receive two official blessings. The first is political approval, and the second is funding. The absence of either of these endorsements guarantees that ground will not be broken and a project will remain just an idea.

For five years, the 1,700-mile extension of the Keystone pipeline running from Canada southward across the heart of the U.S. has remained an idea. The problem is not funding—the pipeline is not a government project. What is lacking is political approval. Because the pipeline crosses from Canada into the U.S., the executive branch must sign off on it and has steadfastly declined to do so. And there it sits.

Money and official approval—you must have both. I say… official approval. Public approval as determined by polls and letters to the editor doesn’t count. If it did, oil would already be flowing through the pipeline: Three times as many Americans support the project as oppose it. In our republic, however, what is essential is the approval of the people we put into office. Not enough of them are for it.

We all know the Keystone arguments, pro and con: Energy security and construction jobs on one hand, carbon fears and oil spills on the other. Even though everyone wants the former and no one wants the latter, there seems to be no room for consensus. Just as oil and water don’t mix, the chemistry of Keystone opponents and proponents resists blending.

If you want to see the pipeline built—and many contractors would love to be working on it right now—you have to get a critical mass of officeholders with clout on your side. Otherwise, the pipeline is just an idea.