WASHINGTON — Venezuela’s offer of asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden just highlights the importance of approving the Keystone XL pipeline, according to supporters of the politically charged project.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., is a big Capitol Hill champion of the pipeline that would transport more than 800,000 barrels a day from the oil sands of Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.
The Omaha congressman said Venezuela has been using the money it receives from selling oil to the United States to purchase military equipment and destabilize democratic countries around it.
“And now they want to be more flagrant and in our face by housing Snowden,” Terry told The World-Herald. “The Keystone pipeline can completely offset Venezuelan oil.”
Jane Kleeb, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Bold Nebraska, said Terry was “grasping at straws” by trying to link the Snowden case to the pipeline.
She said an upcoming report from another advocacy group, Oil Change International, will demonstrate that the oil carried by Keystone XL would not be guaranteed to replace the oil that comes from Venezuela.
What is clear is that even after years of debate, the fight over the pipeline continues to be intense.
The American Petroleum Institute unveiled Tuesday a new advertising campaign in support of the project that will run in a number of key states, though Nebraska and Iowa are not among them.
Kleeb said the campaign by the oil industry is frustrating, but she said she wasn’t sure how effective it would be in swaying the Obama administration anyway.
Still, it might help influence lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where even some Democrats have voted to support the project and are frustrated by the administration’s delay in approving it.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., a key pipeline supporter, said he’s optimistic that Obama will approve the pipeline by the end of August. If that doesn’t happen, Congress could include the pipeline in an energy-efficiency bill.
Hoeven agreed with the suggestion that Venezuela’s offer to house Snowden bolsters the pipeline’s case. He also noted the devastating crash over the weekend of a train carrying oil through a small town in Quebec. The fiery wreck killed more than a dozen people with many others still missing.
Hoeven said that just shows how much safer it is to transport oil through pipelines.
“The reasons to approve Keystone continue to pile up,” he said.
But the crash also could underscore opponents’ criticisms of State Department conclusions that the oil sands will be developed regardless of the pipeline because it could be transported by rail. That logic was at the heart of the State Department’s conclusion that the project would not significantly contribute to carbon pollution and global climate change.
President Barack Obama said recently that he would green-light the project only if it does not significantly contribute to those problems.