Last week, gas prices went up 11 cents per gallon in Georgia — and the national average climbed to $3.72. Businesses and families alike are looking at their budgets to determine how they will afford what for most is an unavoidable cost — one that is hitting at a critical time in our nation’s economic recovery.
Prices are rising at least in part because of instability in the Middle East and fear that the region will no longer be a reliable source of crude oil, which makes it even more baffling that the Obama administration would do anything to hinder an opportunity to import oil from Canada, our neighbor to the north and a friendly trading partner.
In addition to creating a more reliable source for crude oil, the Keystone XL pipeline would create new jobs during one of the highest unemployment periods in our nation’s history. The shovel-ready project could put 20,000 Americans to work immediately on a project that benefits us all.
In fact, the Congressional Research Service has estimated that the pipeline would create more than 340,000 direct and indirect jobs over its lifetime and inject our economy with $600 million each year. Again, why would we want to do anything to slow this project down?
Canada has an abundant supply of crude oil within the Alberta oil sands. At 177 billion barrels, it is the third largest crude oil reserve in the world, and the only sizeable deposit located within one of our allies. Approval of the complete Keystone XL pipeline as planned would mean imports of up to four million barrels of friendly oil a day and would lessen our dependence upon less-friendly and often unstable nations.
The United States has always and will continue to be a major consumer of oil. Regardless of what the project’s opponents might want you to think, that will not change by stopping the Keystone XL pipeline. Here in Georgia, the remarkable population and economic growth experienced over the last two decades has also increased our demand for energy.
Given that our state produces no crude oil, has no oil wells in operation, and has no proven reserves, we will always rely on outside sources — of which Canada would be a much preferable option.
If we do not take advantage of this opportunity, others will. Fortunately, it is not yet too late. TransCanada, the company building the pipeline has announced they are ready to start construction on the southern portion of the project and believe they have a plan for the northern portion that should be more acceptable to the administration.
The President has the power to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. We can only hope that as Georgians and Americans suffer under the burden of increasing gas prices with no ceiling in site, he will also have the political will.
Chris Clark is president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.