by Norman Leach

    Unlocking The Keystone XL

    Approval of the construction for the Keystone XL Pipeline, by President Obama, would send a clear message to Venezuela that there are alternatives to Latin American oil and that those alternatives are close at hand.

    In early July, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, thumbing his nose at the United States in his best Chavez fashion, offered accused traitor Edward Snowden asylum in Venezuela, despite U.S. warnings against any country that did so.

    Ironically, Maduro and U.S. computer hacker Edward Snowden would give President Obama the perfect political cover to finally approve the long-stalled Keystone XL Pipeline.

    Currently, the U.S. buys 2.4 million barrels a day from its solid ally to the north, and the U.S. imports 906,000 barrels of oil a day from Venezuela, approximately the same amount of oil the Latin American country exports to China. Venezuela, its economy in tatters, is absolutely dependent on crude oil sales to stay afloat. Losing a customer the size of the United States would be devastating, and not easily replaced.

    So how did a 29-year-old analyst, with little or no field experience, figure out how to play international politics so well? It turns out he was being guided by Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, hiding at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid prosecution in his own messy case involving leaking U.S. state secrets. As Snowden (and now Assange) tried to find a way out of the Moscow Airport, who should step in, but both Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Venezuela’s Maduro, each offering Snowdon asylum in their respective countries if, in the words of Ortega, “the circumstances permit.”

    Hired by an outside contractor serving the National Security Agency, Snowden, at first, appeared to have the best interests of the United States and its citizens at heart when he went public with how far the Obama regime had pushed the surveillance program known as Prism.

    Matters quickly escalated when Snowden escaped to Hong Kong (the territory has notoriously difficult extradition laws), met with the media, and exposed how the United States was spying on China and other friendly nations. Snowden transformed from a hero to a criminal in one short media conference.

    The U.S. government quickly revoked Snowden’s passport and issued arrest warrants in an effort to return the hacker to the U.S. for trial. Hence, the United States has a real lever to pressure the Maduro government and to win a rare victory in Latin America. All Washington has to do is make a credible threat that it would dramatically reduce oil purchases if Venezuela, or any other Latin American country provides Snowden asylum. (Venezuela is a regional power and carries influence in many South American capitals.)

    By this time, Snowdon was in Russia. By staying in the transit area of the Moscow airport he avoided formally entering Russian territory. Russian President Vladimir Putin also offered Snowdon a form of asylum if Snowdon would agree to no longer releasing U.S. secrets to the media, although Putin was vague as to whether Snowdon should speak with Russian agents.

    Washington/Obama makes the threat credible by having a viable alternative to the 906,000 barrels of oil it buys from Venezuela. Canada, and the Keystone XL Pipeline, provides that very real alternative. The proposed pipeline would carry more than half the oil the U.S. is currently purchasing from Venezuela–590,000 barrels per day and would thus reduce the U.S.’s reliance on Venezuela by 50 percent.

    By simply approving the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline (which has been given the green light by the State Department but faces resistance at the EPA), President Obama would send a clear message to Venezuela that there are alternatives to Latin American oil and that those alternatives are close at hand. Keystone XL will transport oil sands bitumen from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas as well as Bakken synthetic crude and light crude from the Williston Basin.

    Canada has a stable and democratic government, is friendly to U.S. interests, respects human rights, actively enforces some of the toughest environmental laws in the world, and is NOT calling for the overthrow of the government in Washington. Thus, the Keystone is the perfect alternative.

    Providing asylum to Snowden would prove very costly to the Venezuelans indeed. So forget the jobs that would be created by Keystone XL. Forget the advancement toward North American energy self-sufficiency. Forget the billions of dollars that will be added to the U.S. economy both by the construction and operation of the pipeline.

    President Obama must approve Keystone XL to inform the rest of the world that the U.S. takes its security seriously and will do whatever it takes to make America safe for Americans–from all sorts of dictators and hackers.


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