Weekly Columns

Record breaking low temperatures this winter forced most Arkansans to shell out more of their hard earned money to cover their heating bills. We saw the impact the temperatures had on the cost of propane - a shortage that led to an energy emergency. We shouldn’t be left without an adequate energy supply to meet our everyday needs. That begins with creating an energy policy that allows us to use North American energy supplies. This would create jobs, save money and invest in our nation’s natural resources. 

We need a serious debate on energy policy including an open debate on the Keystone pipeline. This proposed 1,700 mile project would transport at least 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other major labor unions estimate the project would create 250,000 jobs over the course of construction. Lower energy costs would support many permanent manufacturing jobs. 

It’s been more than five years since TransCanada applied for a permit to build the pipeline with the State Department. While the Obama Administration has conducted several studies, each has concluded there would be no significant environmental impact along the proposed route. Unfortunately, President Obama won’t give his support to this job creating project. Just last month the administration announced that it will continue to delay its decision to approve or deny the job-creating Keystone pipeline. This delay is costing jobs across the country, including hundreds in Arkansas. 

This is why I support bipartisan efforts to push this project forward. This includes allowing a vote on the Senate floor to show the widespread support. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently used tactics to block amendments to an energy bill being debated in the Senate, including an amendment to approve the Keystone pipeline. This is very disappointing, especially considering the economic impact this project will have on our state. 

My staff recently toured Welspun Tubular, the Little Rock business hired to make pipe for the project. Stored in the shipping yard is about 350 miles of pipe for the pipeline, but there is nowhere for it to go. These pipes translate to jobs. The delay has forced Welspun to layoff employees. However there is work to be done when the project gets the green light. Welspun estimates 50 jobs would be created to load the pipes and an additional 200 people would be put to work in support positions. 

Canada’s oil sands are among the largest oil reserves in the world.  As global demand for oil surges and Canada increases production, the addition of the Keystone pipeline will ensure that Americans benefit from reliable and secure oil from our largest trading partner and trusted ally. It truly is a commonsense decision that can help jumpstart economic activity, create jobs and provides us a reliable source of energy from a dependable trading partner. Why the administration continues to delay the Keystone pipeline is baffling. I will continue to push for its approval because it makes sense for our country.