Good Evening
Good Evening

Keystone is a symbol in bigger energy debate

A sixty-foot section of pipe is lowered into

A sixty-foot section of pipe is lowered into a trench during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on March 11, 2013. Credit: Bloomberg / Daniel Acker

President Barack Obama is sure to veto the bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry up to 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from tar sands in Canada to refineries at the Gulf of Mexico. He's right to do so. The authority to decide the future of the pipeline belongs in the executive branch, not Congress.

But after six years of analyzing the pipeline for its impact on the economy, environment and national security, it's time for Obama to make the call. He should green-light the privately funded project.

This issue has become superheated because the debate is not really about one pipeline. Keystone XL has become a proxy for the broader battle that Congress has yet to meaningfully engage over the issues that shape our nation's energy future -- climate change, carbon taxes, conservation, subsidies for ethanol, and fossil fuels versus renewable energy.

There was a promising sign: One Senate amendment to the bill that had bipartisan support would have made it cheaper for consumers to buy energy-efficient products such as water heaters, and easier for manufacturers to build more efficient heating and cooling systems. It also would have created incentives for owners of commercial buildings to reduce their carbon footprints. Congress should pass these programs in a stand-alone bill.

So the pipeline debate, which lasted three weeks and saw votes on more than 50 amendments, wasn't a waste of time. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the new Senate majority leader, came through on his promise to allow more floor debate, and Democrats made sure he got it. There was overwhelming support for an amendment stating that climate change "was real and not a hoax. "

Now Congress has to do something about it.