Watch Elizabeth Warren School the Senate on the Keystone XL Pipeline: ‘It’s About Money and Power’

The Massachusetts senator blasted colleagues for fast-tracking the controversial tar sands oil project on the first day of the new Congress.
Jan 9, 2015·
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., lit into Senate colleagues on Thursday for putting a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline ahead of legislation that would do much more for American job growth and infrastructure.

“Who does this new Republican Congress work for—foreign oil companies or the American people?” Warren asked.

The proposed pipeline would transport oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast. Most of the oil would be exported, with little destined for use in the U.S. Earlier this week, President Obama threatened to veto legislation approving the Keystone pipeline.

Keystone would create “terrible” environmental risks, said Warren. While backers have claimed Keystone will employ tens of thousands of Americans, more sober analyses show it’s unlikely to create more than a few thousand American jobs a year over two years of construction and probably no more than 50 permanent positions once it becomes operational.

By comparison, Warren said, passing a permanent highway bill would create upward of 10 million jobs in the next four years and also restore crumbing roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

“It’s not about jobs. It’s not about energy. Why is this bill so urgent?” asked Warren. “The answer is power—money and power.”

The Canadian oil industry is spending millions on lobbying to get the pipeline approved, Warren noted, and now it wants to collect on the investment.

Warren stated that she would not support the Keystone bill. But ultimately, the energy committee approved the measure on a vote of 13 to 9, moving it closer to a vote in the full Senate.

Warren’s opinions echoed those of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who this week also charged Republicans with ignoring important transportation problems to advance Keystone.

“The president should only sign bills that are good for America, but the Keystone tar sands pipeline does nothing for our country and everything for Canada,” Boxer said in a statement. “In addition, reports show the pipeline project will increase the price of gas, while the tar sands flowing through the pipeline will result in pollution that causes serious illnesses like asthma and increases in carbon pollution—the main cause of climate change.”

Keystone opponents had a major setback Friday, as the Nebraska Supreme Court threw out a state law that would have prevented the pipeline from crossing the state, rendering a presidential veto the strongest remaining means to defeat the project.

Just hours after the Nebraska court decision, the House of Representatives voted 266 to 153 to send its own bill supporting the pipeline to the Senate.