Pittsburgh, Pa. (CBS HOUSTON) — Former President George W. Bush said the construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline should be a “no-brainer” given its boost to the American economy and job growth.

Speaking at the DUG East Conference with top executives from oil and gas companies, the 43rd president said that the pipeline’s construction from Canada to Texas would help put the focus back on the country’s private-sector of the economy, reports Desmogblog.com.

“I do think we’re underperforming economically, and I think the reason why is there’s not enough focus on private sector growth, said Bush. “I think the goal of the country ought to be: ‘How do we grow the private sector?’ That ought to be the laser-focus of any administration. And therefore, once that’s the goal, an issue like Keystone pipeline becomes a no-brainer.”

“If private sector growth is the goal and Keystone pipeline creates 20,000 new private sector jobs, build the damn thing,” he said to applause.

The State Department has estimated that the pipeline would potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a 1-to-2 year construction period. The pipeline would pump up to 830,000 barrels of oil into the U.S. daily.

The $7 billion and 1,700-mile pipeline has become a contentious issue for President Barack Obama, who has called the project just a “blip” on the radar for the overall economy. Project supporters, including unions and lawmakers from both political parties, tout the jobs it would create and demand its approval, while environmentalists are urging the president to reject it, saying it would carry dirty, carbon-intensive oil.

Environmental groups have estimated that it would result in climate-damaging emissions “equal to adding more than 5.6 million new cars to U.S. roads,” writes Friends of the Earth.

A new report from the International Energy Agency states that the international impact from the pipeline from the Canadian tar sands would be short-lived.

“The extraordinary rise of light tight oil in the United States will play a major role in meeting global demand growth over the next decade,” reads the report. “But the Middle East – the only large source of low-cost oil – will remain at the center of the longer-term oil outlook.”

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