Nicolas Gutierrez: It's time to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline

I was both encouraged and disappointed as I followed the recent U.S. House of Representatives’ vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day into Gulf of Mexico refineries from Canada.

Not only did the measure pass the House, it was heartening to see two Florida Democratic congressional members – U.S. Reps. Gwen Graham (FL-2) and Patrick Murphy (FL-18) – vote in favor of the a project that is slated to create or support 42,000 jobs upon construction and aid a large portion of the American public who rely upon work in the energy sector. Clearly, they both understand that the Keystone XL Pipeline represents economic growth and a continued route toward American energy independence.

Sadly, they were in the Democratic minority as two of only 28 Democrats who joined 238 Republicans in voting for the project.

It will now be up to the U.S. Senate to determine whether this project, which will provide jobs in states throughout the Midwest and help stabilize an oil and gas industry that has been hampered by the lowering of foreign oil prices, is worth an affirmative vote. It’s possible a Senate vote will happen within weeks, though President Obama has said he would veto any bill that comes to his desk.

The Florida Energy Forum, a nonpartisan citizens’ group that supports smart energy policy and energy independence for America, urges U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to join in supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline due to its benefits to the country. In addition to the financial benefits, it is to be designed with extensive controls to help prevent spills that could harm the environment.

The majority of Americans support this project and are wondering why it continues to be delayed for political reasons. It was proposed nearly seven years ago and has been the subject of years of studies by the U.S. State Department. In its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in January 2014, the State Department reported that “during construction, proposed project spending would support approximately 42,100 jobs and approximately $2 billion in earnings throughout the United States. Construction of the proposed Project would contribute approximately $3.4 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product.”

In 2012, Obama told an oil town crowd in Oklahoma he would make the southern end of the pipeline a “priority,” but refused to support the full pipeline project from Canada through to Texas. Then a lawsuit in Nebraska, which was recently settled and cleared the way for the project, became the next crutch for the president not to support it, followed by a claim the project will only create 2,000 jobs. The most recent pushback by Democrats is a call for an amendment that will require the refined oil to be used only in the United States, thus restricting free trade.

It’s time for the political games to end. Americans – of all political persuasions – support the Keystone XL Pipeline and our country needs to continue being a world leader in energy production to rein in dependence on foreign oil from unstable countries. As we use available fossil fuels and continue researching renewables, this project is an important part of the future of American energy. I hope Sen. Nelson changes his mind and votes in favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Nicolas Gutierrez, of Coral Gables, is volunteer chair of the Florida Energy Forum (, a nonpartisan group of Florida residents concerned about energy issues. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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