Keystone XL proponents use pencils to make their point

When trying to persuade policymakers and politicians of your point of view, sometimes you need a prop.

Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline may have found theirs in a 14-inch pencil.

The American Petroleum Institute is using the jumbo-sized writing implements to drive home its belief that the Obama administration is taking too long to review TransCanada Corp.’s proposal to build the pipeline linking Alberta oil sands with Gulf Coast refineries.

Next Thursday, Sept. 19, marks five years since TransCanada first asked the U.S. government for permission to build the border-crossing pipeline.

Since the fifth anniversary is usually celebrated with wood, API ordered up the pencils to mark the occasion.

The silver pencils — which look a bit like pipelines themselves — are emblazoned with a slogan: “KXL delay: 5 years and counting.” An attached card features a picture of a construction worker asking “When will I work?”

Related story: Canada touts green improvements for green light on Keystone XL

“Not every 5th anniversary is cause for a party,” the American Petroleum Institute says on the flag. “Maybe soon the president will end the Keystone XL delay and give Americans new jobs, economic growth and energy security.”

The trade group plans on handing the pencils out to lawmakers and congressional aides.

But there will be no shortage of actions around the 5-year anniversary. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee — which offers up an embeddable Keystone XL countdown clock online — is set to hold a hearing on the project next Thursday — naturally timed to coincide with the occasion.

“After five years and numerous delays by the State Department, we will look at the benefits and jobs denied by the delay of this landmark infrastructure project,” said Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., in announcing the hearing.

The State Department is currently reviewing public comments filed on its last environmental assessment of Keystone XL, as part of its charge to determine whether the pipeline is in the “national interest.” A final decision appears unlikely before early next year.

Environmentalists say the project would expand the marketplace for bitumen harvested from Alberta’s oil sands, typically through open-pit mining or particularly energy-intensive techniques involving steam. The result, they say, is a hydrocarbon that produces more carbon dioxide emissions over its entire life span — from production to eventual combustion — than alternative crudes.

Keystone XL supporters say denying the pipeline would do little to thwart the development of the oil sands — but would jeopardize America’s relationship with Canada and only force more oil to travel by trains.