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OUR OPINION: Confounded by Keystone XL’s continued delay

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp uses popular culture to portray how she feels about TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

“It’s the Kim Kardashian of carbon,” the Democrat told the Grand Forks afternoon Rotary Club Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t know why we care.”

Kardashian, for those not in the know on such things, is a reality television star famous for, really, nothing. Heitkamp has used variations of that quote in the past to make the point that the Keystone XL really is famous for nothing, too. After all, numerous other pipelines already form a well-used grid in the United States, so why make such a big deal about it?

If built, the Keystone XL will transport oil from Canada and parts of the United States from Alberta through Saskatchewan, Montana and South Dakota before connecting to another pipeline in Nebraska. It would just miss entering the extreme southwest corner of North Dakota.

The pipeline has become the center of great controversy, and that has led to delays at the federal level. The project cannot begin until it gets approval from the federal government, a process that’s required because it crosses an international boundary.

Opponents argue against its construction because, they say, it will bring heavy Canadian tar-sand oil into the market and further contribute to environmental woes, such as pollution and global warming. Spills along the route could be disastrous, too, they say.

Really, we don’t disagree. The oil may spill, and it may indeed contribute to global warming. But trains and trucks can spill, too, as we have seen in recent months. And trust that the oil will end up in the market somehow, whether or not the Keystone XL ever is constructed.

Tuesday, Heitkamp essentially voiced the same reaction, saying that delaying or disallowing the Keystone XL is never, ever, going to end oil production in the Canadian tar sands.

“You’re not going to shut down oil sand production in Canada because it is critical to their economy,” Heitkamp said.

For that matter, such protests won’t end oil production anywhere, and we believe North Dakotans especially should be cognizant of that.

In the end, the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline is symbolic, and nothing else, Heitkamp told the Rotarians. She said too many people feel that shutting down a transportation mode of oil will thereby shut down the industry. That’s quite unlikely, she said.

We’ve said it before, and we’re saying it again: The Keystone XL needs to move forward. The delays are based on dramatic demonstrations and commentary. The delays also are based on the failure to recognize the inevitable – that the world today craves oil and someone will pay to have it shipped in pipelines, over rails or on highways. We prefer pipelines.

We also believe jobs are at stake, and that oil developed in America and Canada is better for our economy than oil produced in unstable nations overseas. And finally, we know that support for the Keystone XL is crossing political aisles in Washington.

These delays confound us. It’s time for approval.