WASHINGTON — Stop obsessing over Keystone XL.
That’s one of the messages Sen. Ted Cruz delivered to conservatives at a major policy summit on Monday, as the freshman from Texas urged fellow GOP lawmakers to stop focusing so squarely on TransCanada Corp.’s proposed oil pipeline — and instead do more to unleash America’s energy potential.
“As much as we need to approve the Keystone pipeline, we need to think far broader than that,” Cruz told the Heritage Action for America Conservative Policy Summit. “We need to do far more.”
Cruz’s policy speech — his first major address on energy issues — marks a shift in the Tea Party favorite’s focus too, away from the health care law known as Obamacare to the economic potential of domestic fossil fuel development.
“We are seeing the beginning of an American energy renaissance,” Cruz said to a standing room-only crowd. “There is one thing — and only one thing — that can stop us from achieving the full potential of this energy renaissance, and that is government.”
Despite his plea to move beyond Keystone XL, Cruz did stress his support for the pipeline, which would link Canada’s oil sands with Gulf Coast refineries.
“If you are a Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging Greenpeace activist, you should love the Keystone pipeline,” he said. If it isn’t built, “we will continue to rely more and more on overseas oil, and as long as there are tankers, there will be spills.”
Besides, Keystone XL isn’t the only potential avenue for carrying Canadian oil sands crude to market, Cruz said, echoing a talking point frequently voiced by the project’s supporters. If not carried to U.S. refineries, the supplies would be refined under looser environmental rules in China, he said.
“If the pipeline is not built north-south, it will be built. It will just go east-west instead,” Cruz said. “The Canadians won’t leave the oil sands unmolested.”
Expanding energy exports
Cruz dedicated most of his 30-minute address to extolling the virtues of private enterprise and outlining the perils of government regulation. The speech was laden with jokes about Al Gore and digs at former President Jimmy Carter that played well before a mostly Republican crowd.
He delivered an ode to the late George Mitchell, the Texas oilman who pioneered the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to extract oil and gas from shale. And he offered a withering criticism of Obama administration policies he said are standing in the way of domestic energy production, such as limits on offshore drilling.
Al Gore: Keystone XL is an ‘atrocity’
Cruz also made a pitch for expanded exports of U.S. oil and natural gas. While the government has approved plans to sell liquefied natural gas overseas, Cruz complained “the bureaucratic paperwork to export LNG has been mind-numbingly slow.” And he called the 1975 ban on exporting crude oil a “relic from ages where our supply of crude oil was viewed as quite limited.”
Energy bill planned
Nominally, Cruz was at the Heritage Foundation’s building, blocks from the U.S. Capitol, to outline the broad contours of energy legislation he plans to introduce soon.
The measure is still in development, but so far, it is on track to be a compilation of GOP proposals that have passed the House only to stall in the U.S. Senate. According to Cruz, the bill would:
- force the federal government to offer more offshore acreage for oil and gas drilling.
- bar federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing.
- streamline the permitting process for building new refineries.
- force approval of Keystone XL and “remove the barriers” standing in the way of other pipelines.
Cruz stressed that economic activity tied to oil, gas and coal development cuts across U.S. sectors and states, propping up heavy manufacturing as well as other industries.
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