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Energy East: Tying Obama's Hands on Keystone XL

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One way or the other, the decision about whether or not the Keystone XL is coming, and coming sooner rather than later.

Some observers insist that, despite the State Department's strongly-supportive report on the potential environmental impacts of the pipeline, the report has also set the stage for President Barack Obama to reject the pipeline if he feels so compelled. But in reality, Obama doesn't have as strong a hand as those observers would insist.

The Keystone XL pipeline is merely one of no less than five pipeline projects on the board to ship oil from Alberta -- in particular from the oilsands -- to market. And at least one of those projects, the Energy East pipeline, could have a hefty impact on the United States' energy needs.

Backed by the Iriving family -- proprietors of the Irving Oil refinery in New Brunswick, and of a ice-free port capable of handling large tankers -- the pipeline could incur $1.2 billion dollars in savings for the refinery that currently produces one third of the gasoline consumed along the US East Coast. Per annum.

That is provided that customers in India don't pay a premium to purchase that oil out from under the US' nose. (That's not much of an option with Keystone XL.) The Irvings say they already have Indian customers chomping at the bit.

Energy East is being treated by some observers as a "plan B." It's actually nothing of the sort. It can be one part of a two-pronged energy infrastructure that can enhance the energy security of each US coast.

Or it can be used to supply the US' energy market competitors. The choice is up to Barack Obama, if it's much of a choice at all.

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