Building the Canada-to-U.S. Keystone XL oil pipeline is more than a choice about energy. It's a choice about keeping America strong and secure and maintaining its place as a world leader.
The pipeline, which needs approval from the Obama administration to be built, is an opportunity to strengthen our nation's economy and energy future. It can help the economy by providing new jobs - including thousands of new jobs to build and operate the pipeline and more than 100,000 new long-term U.S. jobs linked to increased oil sands development in Canada.
Once tied to the southern leg of the line, it can strengthen our energy future by delivering more domestic and Canadian crude oil to our nation's Gulf Coast refineries, which would reduce oil imports from less secure parts of the world. With the pipeline, crude oil imports from Canada could reach 4 million barrels a day by 2030 - or twice what we import from the Persian Gulf.
The project has been studied and debated for more than five years. The polls show the vast majority of the public believes it's a good idea. The states the pipeline would go through want it. Business leaders and labor unions support it. A bipartisan majority in Congress favors it. And five reviews by the U.S. Department of State conclude that the project would have a negligible impact to the environment and be built to be safer than any other to date.
Our nation once didn't hesitate to undertake ambitious projects like the multi-billion dollar, privately funded Keystone XL project. A great industrial nation makes big investments in infrastructure because a strong infrastructure is the basis for a strong economy. Roads, bridges, airports, ports and telecommunications lines and satellites, as well as other infrastructure Americans build and operate put people to work, promote trade and commerce, and provide essential services.
They help us generate the economic resources we need to fund education, law enforcement, the arts and the most capable military in the world.
Energy infrastructure matters because energy powers our factories, homes and schools and is the lifeblood of transportation. We need refineries, electric utilities, nuclear plants, solar and wind turbines to produce energy. We need other infrastructure to deliver it, including cost-efficient pipelines to move crude oil to our refineries - and gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other oil products to consumers across America.
But why invest in oil infrastructure at all? Why not just replace oil with alternatives? The fact is we need and will need both. We need the Keystone XL and other oil infrastructure because oil remains important. Along with natural gas, it supplies more than 60 percent of America's energy and is a catalyst for economic growth, supporting more than nine million jobs. Moreover, in 2040 the government says, oil and natural gas will still provide more than 60 percent of our energy. And that's true even with nearly 40 percent growth in renewables, in which the U.S. oil and natural gas industry is a major investor.
This energy reality - and the fact that we could be producing at home more of the oil and natural gas we'll be consuming rather than importing it - is why the industry continues to invest in new oil and natural gas development. The United States now produces more natural gas than any other country and within seven years could surpass Saudi Arabia in oil production, according to the International Energy Agency. In a world that still depends on oil and natural gas, this is a competitive and geopolitical advantage.
Since the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, the United States has been a leader on energy. That leadership has helped keep our nation prosperous and strong. To remain a leader, we must continue to invest in oil and natural gas as well as other forms of energy and continue to invest in the infrastructure that supports that development.
The Keystone XL pipeline is needed. Build it and we put Americans to work and grow our economy. Build it and we strengthen the security of our energy supplies. Build it and we show ourselves and the world we still can undertake the big projects that are crucial to American success.
The industry is ready to start construction. All that's needed is for the administration to agree with the American people that this pipeline is right for the nation by giving it the go-ahead.
Jack Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. Gen. Jim Jones is a former national security adviser.