WASHINGTON — Business leaders around the world are watching to see what the United States does with the Keystone XL pipeline, the CEO of engineering giant Siemens said Friday.
The House passed legislation authorizing the pipeline on Friday, and the Senate is slated to vote on the issue next week, but it’s unclear whether President Barack Obama will go along.
The proposed TransCanada Corp. pipeline would transport crude from Alberta to Cushing, Okla., giving it a new route to the Gulf Coast.
Siemens AG CEO Joe Kaeser said that if the U.S. government ultimately rejects the project, it would be like “stopping halfway” — harvesting North American energy resources but failing to transport them to market.
“It doesn’t do any good to have the greatest opportunity in the world to produce cheap, (reliable and sustainable) energy if you stop halfway through and don’t transport that blessing you folks have in this great country,” he said in an interview Friday.
“If the project was held up, the signal would be they have all the opportunities, which everyone dies to have, and they didn’t take advantage of it because they stopped halfway,” he said. “The signal will be: Look at them, they have all that opportunity and they missed it.”
Siemens AG, a Munich-based engineering conglomerate, is making big moves inside the United States, including its recent $7.6 billion acquisition of Houston-based energy equipment manufacturer Dresser-Rand.
Kaeser stopped short of saying it would be a mistake to block Keystone XL, noting it’s bad form for foreigners to give unsolicited advice.
“People will watch,” he said, “because everyone wants to be in the United States, everyone wants to build a manufacturing plant, . . . everyone wants to create jobs in this country.”
If executives looking to do business in the United States see “they don’t carry it through, they may just wait and see.”
Separately Friday, Kaeser highlighted the economic and energy potential of the United States in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“This is the most prosperous, the most effective economy in the world,” he said. “We believe this is the place to be for the next generations.”
The economic opportunities in the U.S. go hand in hand with its stable regulatory structure and legal regime — plus one intangible that Kaeser described as the country’s innovative spirit.
“I would rather spend my $10 billion … on acquisitions in a country which is safe, which knows how to defend itself, which is inherently an innovative country,” he said.
Innovation, he stressed, isn’t just about churning out new technology, but an approach where businesses and people find a way to stand up when they fall down and then try to do better.
“If I look at who has the biggest potential to revolutionize the industrial world, it’s the United States — not because of a high industrial base,” he said. “It’s about software, it’s about semiconductors, it’s about the reindustrialization that has been triggered by energy and infrastructure buildup.”
“If you folks get that all together it’s a recipe that no one else has in the whole world.”