Weekly Columns

As you’ve probably noticed it’s taking more money to fill up the gas tank. In the past month gas prices in Arkansas have increased nearly 50 cents according to AAA. That pattern is being repeated nationwide. An average gallon of gas cost $3.62 a gallon, the highest it’s ever been in the month of February. These rising prices are a costly reminder of how our country’s restricted energy policy impacts our bottom line. 

That’s why it’s important to develop a policy that uses our natural resources and puts us on the path to energy independence. We can start moving our country in this direction with the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

This proposed 1,700 mile pipeline would transport 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast. Tapping into these oil sands will offer us a reliable source of energy from our strongest ally and trading partner. Unfortunately President Obama has refused to approve the project and he’s running out of excuses for delaying it. 

The President had used Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s objections to the project as a reason for his opposition. Fortunately, in January, Gov. Heineman approved a new route through the state for the Keystone XL pipeline. This endorsement cleared the way for the State Department and the President to approve the permit required for the project, but the administration is stalling. 

I joined my colleagues in urging the President and the Secretary of State to support the pipeline within the first quarter, calling on the administration to provide the public and other stakeholders with a definitive process for approving the project, which has been under review for nearly four and a half years. Last Friday, the State Department released its latest draft report on the environmental impact of Keystone XL which reported there would be no significant environmental impact along the proposed route. 

In our state, there is good reason to fight for this project – job growth. The Nucor plant in Blytheville would supply a lot of the steel used in the pipeline and Welspun Tubular in Little Rock already manufactured 500 miles of pipe for Keystone XL. Unfortunately because of this delay, that pipe is sitting unused and what’s worse is that employees were laid off because of the lack of work. 

Nationwide this critical energy project is estimated to create 250,000 jobs over the course of construction, including 20,000 workers who would have a job immediately. This project has the support of the American people. A recent Harris Interactive poll found strong support for Keystone XL. Of 1001 registered voters, 69 percent said they support construction of the pipeline, with only 17 percent saying they oppose it. 

I encourage President Obama and his administration to join the efforts to provide Americans with a secure supply of energy by approving the Keystone XL pipeline. There is no reason to delay this important project that would provide hardworking Americans with job opportunities and deliver a reliable source of energy.