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Guest column/Keystone pipeline right for U.S.

November 3, 2013
By CHRIS ZEIGLER , The Herald-Star

We have seen amazing economic growth in Ohio and across the nation from domestic energy exploration and development. Our energy sector is booming, and we are even seeing a revival in manufacturing because of it.

According to recent reports, development of Ohio's shale resources is supporting tens of thousands of new jobs with wages much higher than that of other industries. In fact, there are nearly 13,500 shale and natural gas-related businesses in our state. Shale energy is nothing short of a game-changer for Ohio's economy, and it is improving the quality of life for many Ohio families.

Unfortunately, we're not seeing the same progress with another issue that will create jobs, boost our economy and further enhance our energy security. It has been five years since the Keystone XL pipeline's application was filed with the federal government. The pipeline would connect Canadian oil to refineries in Texas, creating thousands of jobs and fostering better ties with one of our strongest allies.

The pipeline is in limbo while the Obama administration weighs the merits of domestic energy independence and job creation over the concerns of anti-development activists. It should not be a very difficult decision. Keystone XL can be a vital piece of our nation's move away from foreign energy dependency. It will also put many Americans back to work.

Delaying its approval is leaving jobs and investment behind. Projections have shown that during the next 15 years the pipeline would create more than 100,000 American jobs and inject $20 billion into our economy. Here in Ohio, we could see an increase in our state's GDP by $9.6 billion over the next 25 years. Do we really want to pass up an opportunity to create jobs and grow our economy?

The Keystone XL pipeline also utilizes more than 50 manufacturing suppliers in the United States. The impact of a project of this scope only increases when you consider those who would also benefit, from suppliers and manufacturers to local businesses along the pipeline route.

Nearly as important is reducing trade with sometimes hostile and unstable governments. Canada is one of our nation's greatest allies, and increasing oil trade with them is something that will ultimately strengthen our national security. We should be doing everything in our power to work with friendly nations. Each year that passes is another year further from advancing toward energy security.

Thankfully, strong congressional leaders, such as U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, and others, are making a strong case to the administration for the approval of Keystone XL. Their leadership on this issue is not only good for Ohio, but also for the strength of our entire nation. They realize we should not balk at such an opportunity, especially when Americans need it the most.

Opposition to the pipeline has come exclusively from fringe activist groups who refuse to accept that the development of Canada's oil sands can be done in a way that protects the environment, while providing a better economic outlook for Americans. New technologies and stringent state and federal regulations have addressed all reasonable concerns and placed our nation's oil and gas industry on a sound environmental footing. Canada has made the determination to develop this natural resource; the question is whether or not the U.S. will seize the opportunity

Most Americans overwhelmingly support efforts to bolster our energy security and, according to recent public opinion surveys, they support Keystone XL. Just this past April, the Ohio General Assembly passed two resolutions with overwhelming bipartisan support urging the federal government to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline project.

With strong support from working Americans and environment protections in place, the Obama administration has every reason to allow this vital future piece of our nation's energy security to move forward.

(Zeigler is executive director of the Ohio Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute.)

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