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Commentary - XL Pipeline project would add jobs

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commentaries Alexandria, 56308
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By State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, chair of Senate Environment Committee

President Obama chose political expediency over job creation by canceling a key mineral lease auction and delaying a large building project that would have created jobs and eased our reliance on foreign oil.

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For several months now, extreme environmental groups and Hollywood celebrity activists have urged the president to go slow on natural gas permits and not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline - a $7 billion, 1,700-mile project that would move more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Texas Gulf coast, strengthen energy security and create jobs.

They got their wish as President Obama delayed the Keystone decision until 2013, and put a hold on the significant Wayne National Forest natural gas lease auction.

The full effect of these decisions is clear. The Keystone project is expected to generate more than 20,000 high-paying manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as more than 100,000 indirect jobs. Utica shale development, which the WNF lease would tap, projects more than 200,000 oil and gas industry-related jobs by 2015 - and many spinoff benefits for decades to come.

By simply getting out of the way, President Obama could have boldly moved to create jobs and ease dependence on foreign oil. But he didn't. Instead, he turned his back on the jobs, and all the positive residuals needed to jump-start a stalled economy.

Need perspective? More than 320,000 jobs is roughly equivalent to the combined employee totals of the following U.S. companies: Microsoft, Toys R Us, 3M, Medtronic and General Mills.

So with a 9 percent national unemployment rate translating to 14 million Americans currently out of work and the bleak outlook for new jobs, you would think our president would lock on to new private-sector jobs with that "laser focus" he's been talking about lately. But he didn't.

Senate energy committee chair, Julie Rosen and I sent two joint letters during the year, signed by dozens of legislators from both parties, urging support for the project.

Canada's economy is booming and a key reason is that they mine and market their own resources. Energy is leading the way in Canada, just as it is in North Dakota, where virtually anyone who wants a job can find one.

Since the announcement of the KXL delay, TransCanada has agreed to take a look at a costly re-route of the pipeline - despite the State Department finding there is no reason to do so. But the routing really isn't the problem - the disdain of certain groups for oil is.

Recently, members of the U.S. House included a provision regarding the Keystone XL project in its payroll tax holiday extension legislation. The provision calls for the president to make a decision within 60 days on the project. Some have countered that this is just another political game. I have to disagree. A payroll tax break for middle class families means very little if you do not have a job.

If our president intends to stop this project, and our ability to mine and market our own resources, he should tell us his intentions now. America needs this project. I urge him to support the recent U.S. House proposal and allow middle-class Americans to get back to work and put money in their pockets. Hiding behind the political wind he hopes will shift following the elections in 2012 is no way to lead a nation longing for effective leadership.

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