The poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found 66 percent of Americans favor the pipeline that would carry oil from Canada to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
Only 23 percent of the people sampled said they opposed the pipeline. The support is very broad, spanning all age brackets and political groupings. Among young people 18 to 19, there was 60 percent approval versus 27 percent disapproval.
Republicans favored the pipeline by a very wide margin, 82 percent to 10 percent, and Democrats favored it 54-34 — although among liberal Democrats 48 percent opposed, while 42 percent favored.
On the issue of fracking — high-pressure drilling with water and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas from rock formations — 48 percent of Americans favored increased use of this process, while 38 percent opposed.
Apparently, most Americans have caught onto the idea that the pipeline represents tremendous economic benefits as opposed to possible environmental problems. The Keystone XL would traverse 1,179 miles from Hardisty, Alta., Canada, to Steele City, Neb., where it would link to TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Pipeline and coastal refineries.
TransCanada says the $5.3 billion Keystone XL “will require 9,000 skilled American workers.” In addition, it says “an estimated 7,000 U.S. jobs are supported in manufacturing steel pipe” and other equipment. The company has contracts with more than 50 suppliers in 18 states across this country, ranging from California and New York to Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia.
The pipeline also would “support significant growth of crude oil production in the United States by allowing American oil producers more access to the large refining markets found in the American Midwest and along the U.S. Gulf Coast,” the company says.
If TransCanada has its numbers right, construction and development of the Keystone XL and the Gulf Coast line — which is expected to be completed by year end — will generate a staggering $20 billion in economic impact in the United States.
It’s no wonder that a two-thirds majority of Americans favor this economic engine called Keystone XL.
The burning question now is: Will an oil spill from Exxon Mobil’s aged Pegasus pipeline in a housing development near Mayflower, Ark., last Saturday pose a major problem for Keystone XL? U.S. State Department officials will go to Nebraska in about two weeks to get public feedback on the Keystone XL, and the latest spill that blackened lawns and streets in the Arkansas town is certain to reinvigorate opposition to the TransCanada pipeline.
There are definite risks with the Keystone XL and other pipelines — just as there are with transporting oil, gas and chemicals via rail and truck. But with the technology now available and stricter regulations, pipelines can be built and maintained to standards that will minimize problems.
Bottom line, in my view: The benefits should outweigh the risks.