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On the main floor of Capitol Hill’s stately Russell building, down the white-marbled hall that leads to the offices of some of the most powerful men and women in the United States, Senator Lindsey Graham is batting for Canada and for the Keystone XL pipeline.
“I have been to the oil sands,” the Republican from South Carolina, a big producer of Earthmover tires used in Alberta’s oil sands trucks, said in an interview this week.
“To not make this decision, to deny this partnership, to stop the pipeline, would be one of the most illogical and irrational decisions any president has ever made in modern times. I don’t think he can do that.”
On the other side of the Capitol, in the bustling Rayburn building that houses the offices of the lower house, Congressman Gene Green, a Democrat and a lifetime member of the Sierra Club, said the environmental lobby’s campaign is more politics than substance and wants Keystone XL to be approved.
Three refineries in his district are eagerly awaiting Canada’s secure oil so they can reduce reliance on imports from abroad. He, too, has visited the oil sands.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” he chimed. “Sure, you have a monster hole in the ground. But then I also saw reclamation where there was strip mining. It was similar to the rest of the landscape. And then I went south to the in-situ [projects], where there is more traditional oil production like we are used to in Texas.”
But a few blocks away closer to the White House, a back lane leads to a refurbished architectural studio, the headquarters of 350.org, a grassroots group that has taken to the streets the fight against Keystone XL. Jason Kowalski, the group’s policy director, is convinced President Barack Obama will stand by the environmental movement that helped re-elect him and reject Canada’s “dirty oil.”
“It’s not very often that folks like Barack Obama get the chance to make a big decision like this,” the young activist said. “Here is a guy that people feel a connection to … and here is a chance to go ‘Yea or nay, more carbon or less carbon, more climate change or less climate change.’ This is his first big chance to show us that he is really serious.”
They are some of the voices filling the streets, the offices, the power rooms of Washington as the president gets ready to take a stand on whether to give a permit to the pipeline between Alberta and the U.S. Gulf — after twice rejecting it and causing Canada’s mad scramble to find new markets, particularly China.
The project was first submitted for regulatory approval in September 2008, was delayed in November 2011 and denied in January 2012, when the president was in the thick of his re-election campaign and environmental activists threatened to pull their support. TransCanada resubmitted its application in May 2012 and has since started building the southern portion.
With the election done and the fiscal cliff debacle largely over, the decision is in the queue to be Washington’s next big battle — one that will go a long way to framing the future relationship between the two countries.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2013/02/08/why-obama-will-okay-keystone-xl/?__lsa=71eb-db89