CATOOSA — The controversial Keystone XL pipeline may have minor environmental challenges, but approving it makes greater political and economic sense, an energy industry expert said Wednesday.
Bernard Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, spoke at the Gas Compressors Association meeting at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. His long-term push is for U.S. leaders to develop a rational and national energy policy, but his short-term interest is seeing the Keystone project approved.
“I've just got to believe they're going to approve that pipeline,” Weinstein said in an interview before his speech.
The State Department is considering an application to permit construction of the 1,700-mile Keystone XL, which would bring Canadian oil-sands crude from Alberta down to the Cushing hub and south to Gulf Coast refineries.
The pipeline has many backers but also has generated opposition from a rare alliance of environmentalists and some domestic oil and gas producers. Supporters argue that U.S. ally Canada is the top source of imported oil for the U.S. and that more of the northern crude would offset oil from nations such as Saudi Arabia.
Weinstein doesn't buy that argument. He pointed out that another hostile government, Venezuela, sends more oil to the U.S. than Saudi Arabia.
“A more cogent argument is, ‘Would you rather get your oil from Canada or from Venezuela?'” he said.
Some environmentalists contend that mining and processing the crude from Canada's oil-sands region puts big amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Others worry that pipeline leaks could hurt land and water supplies.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, opposes the Keystone XL project. He recently sent an open letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opposing the proposed route through Nebraska's Sand Hills and above the Ogallala Aquifer.
“The aquifer provides water to farmers and ranchers of Nebraska to raise livestock and grow crops,” Heineman wrote. “Cash receipts from farm markets contribute over $17 billion to Nebraska's economy annually. I am concerned that the proposed pipeline will potentially have detrimental effects on this valuable natural resource and Nebraska's economy.”
Weinstein said he believes that other opponents may have deeper agendas than just the pipeline itself.
“What they're really fighting is fossil fuels,” he said.
Weinstein is not a strong backer of the Obama administration's push to make renewable sources such as wind and solar power the centerpiece of U.S. energy policy.
“You can't base every policy on renewables, efficiency and conservation,” Weinstein said.
He noted that Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate, has touted his efforts to make the Lone Star State No. 1 in wind power capacity. Weinstein visited one of those giant west Texas wind farms a while back, but something was missing that day.
“There was no wind,” he said.
Weinstein is excited about the shale gas revolution and modern drilling improvements that are bringing more domestic oil out of the ground.
U.S. production has risen two years in a row for the first time since the 1970s.
“A national energy policy will be focused on increasing domestic energy in all forms,” he said. “We are an energy-rich nation.”