Rep. DesJarlias: Keystone XL Pipeline Would Help Alleviate Pain At The Pump - And Response

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - by Rep. Scott DesJarlias

For the past two weeks, I’ve traveled throughout Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District meeting with constituents and discussing issues important to our community. These district work periods provide an excellent opportunity to talk with and learn from the people who are at the forefront of creating jobs, teaching our children and caring for our seniors. 

Needless to say, my staff and I spend quite a bit of time in the car going from county to county, which leads us to frequently visit the gas station. It is hard to get over just how much it costs to fill up the gas tank these days. In fact, it was recently brought to my attention that right now we pay an average of $3.40 per gallon here in Tennessee. Unfortunately, the price is only expected to rise as we head into the summer months.

One of the things that I hear constantly from folks is their dismay with the price at the pump. From small and medium sized businesses to individual households, everyone is feeling the pain of high energy prices. 

And there is good reason to be frustrated. Gasoline prices have skyrocketed in the past decade. I remember when I could fill up my truck for nearly $20. Now that will barely get a quarter tank. 

If we are really serious about bringing gas prices under control, we must increase oil production here in the United States. 

One common sense proposal that I have been fighting for in Congress is the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. This venture would bring oil to the United States from our friendly neighbor Canada. Not only would this project help to drive down gas prices, it would create tens of thousands of construction and refinery jobs for Americans.

Unfortunately, President Obama postponed granting the permits required to get this project started until after his reelection for fear that it would upset some of his far-left environmental base. While it is a shame that the president let politics trump good paying jobs and low gas prices, there are rumors that he is re-evaluating his position on approval of the pipeline. 

Regardless, we cannot wait for the White House to act. This project will put men and women back to work, make our country more energy independent and bring down the cost of gasoline. Therefore my colleagues and I in the House will continue to put forth legislative solutions to ensure the construction of the pipeline.

We must hurry. Canada has already indicated that if we don’t start construction, they have another buyer lined up for their oil – China. 

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a critical piece to establishing a more secure energy policy that will bring down costs and reduce our dependency on oil from unstable Middle Eastern countries that don’t always have our best interests in mind. This project just makes sense and I hope that the White House will show some leadership and make the right decision before it is too late. 

* * * 

I have to admit that I had to scratch my head a little bit after reading Congressman DesJarlias’ latest missive to the Chattanoogan.  I actually agree with his statement regarding the need for this country to become energy independent.  Having fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan I am definitely in favor of energy independence. 

Nevertheless, even though politicians of both parties utter those words from time to time, no one in Washington actually does anything.  Fortunately for all of us, recent technological developments may solve the problem without Congress actually doing anything.   

The claim that building the pipeline would create jobs, is obviously true, even if for a very limited period of time. 

However, the claim that importing crude oil from Canada through the Keystone XL Pipeline would lower pump prices is completely unsupported.  The United States, even though it continues to import crude oil, does not have a shortage of crude oil.  Thanks to new horizontal drilling technology, the U.S. is producing more oil now than it has in decades.  Crude oil stocks in all major market areas are high and the strategic petroleum reserve continues to be packed with hundreds of millions of barrels of crude oil. 

The issue is not about the supply of crude oil, it is about limited oil refining capacity.  Refining capacity is needed to actually turn crude oil into useful products such as gasoline, jet fuel and heating oil.  It is also a tougher issue to address, which may be why Rep. DesJarlias does not try to address it.   

While it is true that environmentalists have made it much more difficult to construct new refineries; it is also true that the big oil companies are in no rush construct new refinery capacity. 

This is not a difficult issue to understand.  Let’s imagine that you owned a company that refined oil and you were getting paid $4 per gallon from Mr. John Q. Public.  Would you be willing to invest $2 billion dollars to expand your refinery so that Mr. Public could pay you $3 per gallon?  Any sane person would obviously say no. 

Because the cost of refineries and the infrastructure to supply them and deliver product is so high (billions of dollars) there are very few companies that choose to compete in that business.  The interesting thing is that when the economics benefit them, the big oil companies have always been able to add additional refining capacity at their existing plants with no real problems. 

In the meantime, the consumer continues to be caught in a vise between the political right and left.  The right will blame the environmentalists.  The left will blame the capitalists.  At the end of the day, the consumers will simply continue to pay higher gasoline prices as long as they keep buying inefficient, gasoline powered vehicles.   

So Congressman DesJarlias’ political rhetoric that asserts the Keystone XL Pipeline will lower pump prices is utterly false.   We need intelligent people in Washington to deal with these issues and I keep hoping that Congressman DesJarlias will one day step up to the plate for the good of his constituents.  On the other hand, I actually live in Congressman Fleischmann’s district, so I have to give Congressman DesJarlias credit for at least letting us know what he is thinking, even if I disagree with him on many issues. 

Blake Baxter

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