Few energy projects have inspired the level of vitriol surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline, that would run 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada through the United States to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
The oil sands of Alberta are estimated to hold 170 million 170 billon barrels of petroleum, the largest reservoir of black gold outside of Saudi Arabia.
Because the pipeline crosses an international boundary, President Barack Obama has the final say over whether to give the project a green light.
Here are three reasons to build the pipeline:
1. The oil isn't going to stay buried.
American environmentalists oppose the pipeline partly because they oppose the burning of fossil fuels – especially those extracted from relatively dirty "oil sands." But if America doesn't build the pipeline, that oil is still going to be processed and enter the environment. It'll just get bought by China and other countries looking for cheap and plentiful energy. And TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, is already working on contingency plans to do just that.
2. The pipeline isn't a disaster waiting to happen.
Opponents say that the proposed route dangerously strays over part of the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska, which supplies water for 20 million people. The governor and legislature of Nebraska has urged president obama to start building. TransCanada has already agreed to redirect the pipeline to minimize hazards. It's also agreed to encase the pipeline in cement and post a $100 million bond to cover any possible cleanups.
3. It will help the economy.
Estimates for jobs related to the pipepline run everywhere from 6,000 to a quarter of a million, with TransCanada saying it will hire 15,000 workers to build the thing. The exact figures are unknowable, but once it's up and running, Keystone XL will adds billions of dollars in ongoing economic activity and tax revenues.
President Obama has the authority to stop the pipeline if he determines that it's not "in the national interest." Given the potential upsides of the project, the relative ease with which environmental concerns can be addressed, and the president's own commitment to what he calls "an all of the above energy strategy," it's hard to conjure up a strong case against building the Keystone XL pipeline.
About 2.30 minutes.
Produced by Meredith Bragg. Written and hosted by Nick Gillespie.