It might surprise many to learn that America's largest oil supplier is not located in the Middle East. It is actually Canada, which supplies the United States with more than two million barrels of the 11 million barrels of oil it uses each day.
With a major spike in oil prices now retarding America's economic recovery—and a tide of populist frustration across the Middle East that could put groups implacably hostile to the West in control of that region's immense supplies of oil—Canada's vast petroleum deposits are more important to the future of U.S. energy security than ever before. But for the U.S. to fully take advantage of Canada's resources, a better supply network needs to be in place. The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project would move oil from Canada's Alberta province to Texas with connections to a network of pipelines and refineries elsewhere in the U.S. This pipeline has the potential to supply America with an additional 1.1 million barrels of oil every day—1.1 million barrels that would not need to be imported from hostile regions in the Middle East and South America.
Unfortunately, this project has been lingering under review by the U.S. State Department since 2008. Despite a thorough environmental review by the State Department last year and an Energy Department study in February of this year—which found that the project should move forward—the Obama administration this month announced another round of environmental studies. They gave no specific reason and set no clear time frame. But more delay only threatens U.S. energy security and postpones the creation of badly needed jobs.
Many of the environmental groups opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline are really seeking to attack the development of Canadian oil sands. There is no question that everyone on both sides of the border should expect and demand the highest environmental standards. But these groups are propagating the fallacy that if America refuses Canadian oil, it will stay in the ground.
In fact, alternate markets exist and are growing. There are at least two major projects underway to transport Canadian oil to the Pacific coast to meet demand in Asia.
The question is not whether Canadian oil sands should be used—they will be. The question is whether the U.S. will seize the opportunity to benefit from Canada's abundant supply, estimated by the U.S. Energy Information administration to be 175.2 billion barrels.
Canada has already made remarkable progress in reducing the environmental footprint from oil-sands development. More than 80% of the water used to extract and refine the oil is recycled. The first tailing ponds (containing refuse from the extraction process) are being reclaimed as green land and replanted with hundreds of thousands of shrubs and trees.
Moreover, from an environmental standpoint pipelines are the safest way to carry crude oil and petroleum products. The Keystone XL pipeline will employ state-of-the-art monitoring systems using satellite technology to ensure the utmost safety during transportation. By partnering with Canada, the U.S. can ensure that strict environmental standards are being met from start to finish.
We should not ignore the economic implications of the Keystone XL pipeline. Building the pipeline will create over 20,000 new American jobs in construction and manufacturing in the short term, and more than 250,000 jobs in the long run, according to estimates by TransCanada. The pipeline would also generate needed revenue for states and local communities, including $585 million in taxes and more than $5 billion in property taxes over the projected 100-year operating life of the pipeline. These jobs and revenue are critically needed as America continues its economic recovery.
The Keystone XL pipeline is a win-win for the U.S. and Canada. Canada will gain a stable market with steady demand, and the U.S. will improve its energy and economic security. We need to move forward.
**Mr. Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Beatty is president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.