Keystone XL Approval Is Vital to U.S. Energy Dominance

Keystone XL Approval Is Vital to U.S. Energy Dominance
AP Photo/Tyler Morning Telegraph, Sarah A. Miller

This month, Nebraska regulators approved the Keystone XL Pipeline after years of legal and partisan back-and-forth. And it comes at a critical juncture – not only for America’s ability to transport energy resources but also for the country’s opportunity to bolster international relationships around the world by helping key allies meet their energy needs.

Once a point of weakness, energy has quickly become one of the United States’ strongest assets. Only a decade ago America relied on foreign suppliers to meet nearly two-thirds of oil demand. It now produces almost 80 percent of consumption here at home. Just within the last year, the country has become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas and crude oil. Nearly 35 percent of U.S. electricity is generated by natural gas-fired plants, offsetting coal more and more, which is helping to reduce carbon emissions.

This remarkable domestic energy turnaround is equipping U.S. officials with a powerful diplomatic lever, and the Keystone XL’s approval adds an important arrow to the quiver. Greater energy independence has already begun to undo the stronghold on markets once held by OPEC and other oil cartels. Increasingly, consumer habits have started to dictate production schedules, which has and likely will continue to alleviate prices.

What’s more, countries like Russia, which has long leveraged its energy resources as a bully stick, have begun to see their influence wane as U.S. products have steadied international markets. With China and other developing countries hungry for affordable fuels, the United States is increasingly in a position to bring these players to its side of the table—a capability that has immense implications amid the growing tensions with North Korea and its unpredictable dictator.

The Keystone Pipeline also provides an avenue to build our relationship with Canada, a close ally whose interests strongly align with those of the United States. The energy transportation line, which will move 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day and offset as many as 200 cargo ships per year, will establish a new avenue of trade, one of the strongest bonds between two countries. In turn, that partnership will foster dialogue across a whole host of policy issues.

The pipeline’s approval should come as welcome news to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has made reducing emissions a cornerstone of his policy agenda. Federal environmental impact reports indicate that the Keystone XL will reduce greenhouse gases by 19 million metric tons per year. And, by providing greater certainty—which the Keystone approval certainly does—the decision will undoubtedly encourage further technological advances to improve energy production and consumption.

Further, underground midstream pipelines like Keystone XL are the safest method of transporting energy resources. Construction and subsequent operation of these projects are overseen by federal, state and local authorities, ensuring that pipelines efficiently deliver oil and natural gas to end destinations.

Over the past five years, and certainly the last decade, the United States has turned its energy outlook on its head in ways few could have anticipated. America is now the top producer of oil and natural gas and is on pace to become a net oil exporter within the next decade. These resources are creating opportunity inside our borders—producing jobs and access to affordable fuels, and, just as importantly, they have the potential to reinforce U.S. leadership amid mounting global unrest.

Make no mistake, the Keystone XL Pipeline’s approval marks another critical step in America’s march toward long-term energy independence. Public officials and regulators at every level should put off the temptation to entertain unnecessary second-guessing and see this project through to completion. By doing so, they will send a clear message to the world that the U.S. accepts its mantle as a global energy leader.

Major General James "Spider" Marks (U.S. Army, ret.), is president of the Marks Collaborative. Major Gen. Marks is advisory board chair to TigerSwan, a private security firm which monitors pipeline construction. He is not affiliated with TransCanada or the Keystone Pipeline project.

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