WHAT OTHERS SAY: On balance, the Keystone XL pipeline is worth building

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 | 3:00 p.m. CST

It may be the most overhyped controversy of the past few years: to build or not to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Those in favor of the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast to transport oil from the Alberta tar sands have sometimes exaggerated the project's potential for economic development, and particularly new jobs.

Those who oppose the project have exaggerated its potential impact on the environment.

The pipeline has become a symbol for both sides in an ideological clash over the future course of energy development, and thus a delicate dilemma for the Obama administration.

And yet the federal decision on whether to approve the pipeline isn't supposed to be about politics. It's supposed to be based on the relevant facts, which in recent months have tilted heavily in favor of construction.

This is especially the case after a State Department report in January concluded that building the pipeline would not materially boost carbon emissions because the oil would find its way to market no matter what.

Fortunately, it appears the Obama administration finally may be poised to make a decision. At a meeting recently with the nation's governors, President Barack Obama reportedly indicated that a federal decision on the pipeline would occur within a few months.

It's about time. The pipeline represents neither energy salvation nor environmental disaster, but on balance is worth building.

Fortunately, the dispute has never been purely partisan. Ken Salazar, the former Interior secretary and Democratic senator, came out in favor of the project last month. And 17 Democratic senators endorsed construction in a vote one year ago.

If Keystone is not built and the oil is moved to refineries by other means, greenhouse emissions are likely to be even greater, according to the State Department assessment.

Maybe environmentalists should ponder that before joining the next anti-Keystone protest.

Copyright Denver Post. Distributed by the Associated Press.

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