Creativity and common sense have prevailed in the decision by TransCanada to push ahead with a portion of its controversial Keystone XL Pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.
This decision serves two purposes: one actual and the other prospective. By undertaking construction of the pipeline from the Cushing oil hub, TransCanada is helping to ease congestion in the crude oil flow to Gulf Coast refineries that has occurred as domestic production has expanded over the past few years. The Cushing-Gulf Coast link, which doesn't require federal approval, is expected to be on-line as early as 2013. All indications are that it will be needed as production continues to rise.
Whether or not this pipeline is eventually completed as planned to connect those Gulf Coast refineries with oil sands producers in Western Canada remains uncertain. That decision awaits approval of the U.S. State Department following a controversial decision by President Obama to delay approval of the pipeline pending further review of environmental issues.
TransCanada, whose decision to build the Cushing piece has been "welcomed" by Obama, according to Press Secretary Jay Carney, is requesting stepped-up review of the remainder of its pipeline into Canada by the State Department.
We believe this is entirely reasonable, given the detailed three-year environmental study already completed, and plans to avoid environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska that have been submitted in response to opponents' objections. Given the Obama administration's on-again, off-again support for Keystone, what this situation needs more than anything else is certainty. It must not be decided on political whim.
As the Keystone issue works its way to resolution, whether noisily or quietly, two realities remain in place, one threatening and the other enormously hopeful:
1 For lack of a clear commitment to energy independence, our national energy supply remains perilously uncertain - in the hands of dictators who wish us harm.
1 We have an alternative that is beginning to reveal itself, despite the efforts of the Obama administration to minimize it. That, of course, is the discovery of abundant oil and natural gas resources domestically, made accessible by technological advances by a talented, innovative private sector, much of which calls Houston home.
We like the home team's approach. And we're rooting for its success.
Copyright 2012 The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published March 2, 2012, in The Houston Chronicle.)