Build this pipeline now

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., may be familiar to some Iowans because he is often in demand for nationally televised interview programs. That is because he is plain-spoken, uses common sense to analyze policy questions, and is not afraid to speak the truth – regardless of whether Republicans or fellow Democrats like it.

It came as no surprise, consequently, that Manchin made the Keystone XL?Pipeline issue crystal clear during a recent Sunday interview.

Americans need oil that would be brought here from Canada through the pipeline, Manchin noted. It would add enormously to our energy security. Anyone doubting the importance of that should look at the headlines about the peril faced by Ukraine.

Some of the Canadian shale oil the pipeline could carry will be transported here anyway, by truck and train. As Manchin pointed out, environmentalists who worry about oil spills would do well to consider the fact a pipeline is a much safer means than trucks or trains to carry oil.

But if the Obama administration will not approve the pipeline, much of the Canadian oil may be sold to other countries, such as China. It makes no sense for the U.S. to forgo a cheap, reliable route to energy security while allowing other nations to benefit from it.

Finally, Manchin put his finger on the problem. Obama has insisted throughout his presidency that the State Department, not he, is holding up approval of the pipeline.

As Manchin put it colorfully, no one in Washington – least of all the 535 voting members of Congress – believes that. It is Obama’s administration and his State Department. The White House alone is responsible for delays in approving Keystone XL.

Many members of the Senate, both Republican and Democrat, are fed up with the postponed decisions and Obama’s dissembling about them. As we noted a few days ago, a move is afoot in the Senate to approve a bill that would clear the way for the pipeline.

Proponents of the plan probably have the votes to carry it through – with a veto-proof majority. About a year ago, in what then was seen as a symbolic action, senators voted in favor of the pipeline, 62-37.

Clearly, it is time for the Senate to do more than engage in symbolism. Lawmakers should act immediately to and get this pipeline project underway.