While environmentalists are threatening to chain themselves to trees in order to prevent a pipeline intended to carry crude oil from Canada to U.S. refineries, the rest of the country is working on a solution to unchain our energy dependence from unstable Middle Eastern countries.

For a moment, let's put aside the fact that the Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion (Keystone XL) will create thousands of jobs and inject billions of dollars into the United States during an economic recession. Let's also take our focus off of the fact that Canada is a friendly neighbor with whom we have a historic and successful trading relationship.

Ambiguous environmental arguments often dominate the debate even when the country's security and economic prosperity are at stake. So I'd like to share some important information that is often overlooked during deliberation on this issue.

TransCanada, the North American energy company responsible for the pipeline's infrastructure, has developed the most environmentally sensitive development plan that far exceeds our expectations. TransCanada goes beyond complying with current legislation and regulations. They have invested enormous amounts of time and money to understanding existing environmental resources along the pipeline's route.

As we know from existing pipelines that run across land all over the world, the probability of a spill from a pipeline is rare and even in the case a leak does occur, the maintenance response is rapid and precise. The pipeline is under surveillance every second of every day and an advanced detection system is able to detect even the smallest leak. Nearby response teams, trained for even the most catastrophic leaks, will be station along the entire system. In the highly unlikely event of a leak, the spill would be limited to a much localized area, including in the Ogallala Aquifer. Studies have shown that contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer from the oil is extremely unlikely but TransCanada is still prepared for immediate remediation methods.

TransCanada has an impressive track record of building pipelines along native prairie regions without compromising wildlife habitats. Some of North America's most beautiful areas including southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan remain environmentally sound and aesthetic while hosting pipeline projects.

Experts agree that a pipeline is the most environmentally safe method to transport energy liquids. In order to keep America running, we must be able to transport these resources. The average American citizen uses about 2 barrels of oil every month. We are fortunate that the majority of our oil supplies come from our friendly neighbor. By 2025 production from Canadian oil sands could rise to approximately 3.5 million barrels per day. Without the Keystone XL pipeline, transportation of this abundance of oil to U.S. refineries is next to impossible.

Canada's patience is wearing thin. They are producing the world's most powerful resource at mass quantities and eager to begin transporting it to the United States but until the State Department acts to allow the project to begin, we are losing our chance to benefit from this incredible opportunity. With or without approval from the United States government for the project, Canada will continue production in oil sands. If we miss this chance to participate, our energy supply, national security and economic competitiveness will be gravely threatened.

The world is ours to share. Instead of taking sides, we should be working together. In the past eleven years, the oil and natural gas industries have invested $1.7 trillion in U.S. capital projects to advance all forms of energy, including alternatives, while reducing the industry's environmental footprint. It is my hope that people understand that there are ways to both protect the environment without ignoring the dire consequences if we do not act to position ourselves wisely and strongly on energy policy. Please join me in supporting the final approval for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Brian Kasal
State Chairman, Illinois Energy Forum

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