Mishaps shouldn’t impede energy expansion, industry economist says

The recent oil spill in Arkansas and other mishaps shouldn’t influence lawmakers in Washington to stand in the way of tapping new sources of energy in the U.S. or moving forward with the Keystone XL pipeline, the American Petroleum Institute’s chief economist said Tuesday.

John Felmy, who was in Houston to give a talk about U.S. energy policy, acknowledged  in a telephone interview that the safety and environmental lapses don’t help the industry’s cause. But, he said the industry is doing everything it can to be incident-free.

“No energy source is without potential problem,” Felmy said.

Exxon Mobil Corp., shut down its Pegasus pipeline and was cleaning up thousands of barrels of oil in Arkansas on Monday following the mishap there. At the time of the spill, Canadian crude was flowing through the pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels of crude products per day from Illinois to Nederland in Southeast Texas.

The episode has fueled the fire of critics of the Keystone XL pipeline who believe TransCanada Corp.’s  $7 billion project is an environmental threat.

But, Felmy said the project is important to America’s energy future.

“From an economic perspective, Keystone XL makes sense for the country, and environmentally it makes sense,” he said.

He said the decision should be made to move forward “because we need the oil.” The State Department must approve the northern leg of the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline because it would cross the Canadian border.

Felmy said the industry needs to continue to covey its message about what it is doing to expand American energy production as well as keep workers and the environment safe.

“We need to get out and talk about it,” Felmy said.

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Read ongoing FuelFix coverage of the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline: