Senate Democrat touts support for Keystone XL

As the Obama administration prepares to issue a final verdict on the Keystone XL pipeline, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu on Wednesday emphasized her support for the controversial project.

In an email to supporters headlined “energy=jobs,” Landrieu said that America should “fully invest in the vast potential of oil on land and offshore,” and she wants President Barack Obama to approve Keystone XL.

A year ago the administration blocked the project, with the State Department saying that more environmental assessments were needed after a portion of the pipeline was rerouted.

The project would ferry oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast. Its northern leg requires State Department approval because it crosses an international border.

Read more: Keystone for climate: Could Obama craft a horse trade?

It’s not unusual for oil patch Democrats to break with their party on energy issues, which frequently divide lawmakers along regional more than political lines. But the pains that Landrieu and some other red state Democrats are taking to illustrate where they stand on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline illustrate the red hot politics surrounding the project.

During a climate change rally in Washington on Sunday, thousands of environmentalists implored Obama to reject a permit for the northern leg of the pipeline again. The southern leg, linking a pipeline hub at Cushing, Okla. with the Gulf Coast, is already under construction in Texas.

Environmentalists say the pipeline would expand the marketplace for Canada’s oil sands crude, which generally is harvested through mining or methods involving steam —  more energy-intensive than production of conventional crude.

But supporters — including TransCanada Corp., which wants to build the $7 billion pipeline — say the project will have a negligible effect on global warming.

In her message Wednesday, Landrieu argued that bitumen will be harvested from Canada’s oil sands with or without the pipeline.

“Canada is going to produce this oil one way or another,” she said. “The question is: Who are they going to send it to? Are they going to send it to their good friend, the United States, to our refineries in Texas and Louisiana? Or are they going to ship it somewhere else in the world.”

Read more: Canadian crude rolling into Gulf Coast refineries

Landrieu also touted the pipeline in a speech on the Senate floor last week.

She cast the project as part of an “all-of-the-above energy policy” that could boost the United States’ ailing economy while “creating millions of jobs here at home.”

Landrieu was one of 53 senators — nine of them Democrats — who signed a letter urging Obama to approve the pipeline.

Several of the Democrats joining that push hailed from states with rich oil and gas development, including Mark Begich of Alaska and newcomer Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Beyond just ferrying Canadian oil, the pipeline offers the prospect of a new means for moving crude harvested from the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota to refineries in Texas.