Pipeline a 'major' U.S. election issue

03-14-2012 // Rebecca Penty - Calgary Herald

This excerpt is from the Edmonton Journal

The proposed Alberta-to-Texas Key-stone XL oil pipeline will be a "major issue" in the American presidential campaign as escalating gasoline prices hit a population increasingly aware of Canadian energy supply, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, said Tuesday.

Canada's growing role as an oil supplier has permeated the U.S. public consciousness in an election year, Wilkins told a luncheon crowd in Calgary. Polls show opposition to the 2,700-kilometre Keystone XL, which would deliver oilsands crude to Texas refineries, is limited to a minority of the U.S. population, he said.

"Probably for the first time in history and certainly, for the first time in my lifetime, you've got a presidential race going on in the United States, and Canada is front and centre within the minds of a lot of the candidates," said Wilkins, who spoke to about 425 people at an event sponsored by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

"A year ago, most Americans didn't know about energy exports from Canada."

...

A Republican and the top U.S. diplomat in Ottawa from 2005 to 2009 under former president George W. Bush, Wilkins said the line will be "immediately green-lighted" if a Republican wins the White House, but its fate is "less certain" if Obama is re-elected.

Bush, speaking Tuesday at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers conference in San Diego, said Keystone XL is a "no-brainer" that would create jobs and bolster the economy. "The clear goal ought to be how to get the private sector to grow," Bush said, calling the pipeline "an easy issue."

TransCanada sought a presidential permit to build the 830,000 barrel-per-day line in 2008 and expected approval by the end of 2011. Last November, the U.S. State Department pushed its decision past the election - into 2013 - citing a need for more study of alternative routes in Nebraska, where residents and politicians feared an oil spill on ecologically sensitive lands.

Obama rejected the line in January, while TransCanada was working with Nebraska on a new path, blaming Congressional Republicans for forcing an early decision. The company has split up the project and said it would reapply.

With three-quarters of the pipe-line set to carry diluted bitumen, the project has become a symbol of increased oilsands development and resulted in polarizing public discussion.

Tony Iallonardo, Washington, D.C.-based spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation, said opposition to Keystone XL is growing, and that polls are misleading, being misread or being given too much credit. Americans are "just starting to get to know this issue" and as knowledge grows, so does disapproval, Iallonardo said.

"We've had this overwhelming grassroots groundswell about the pipeline and it's occurred in the last several months and it's snow-balled."

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