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Republicans Blast Obama on Oil Pipeline, Gas Prices

Friday, Second District Congressman John Kline took the Obama administration to task, saying that the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline would create jobs and cut gas prices. Not so fast, say some surprising critics.

U.S. Rep. John Kline, the Second District Congressman from Minnesota, ripped the Obama administration’s handling of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in a campaign email on Friday. The statement foreshadows a renewed battle over attempts to clear the way for construction to begin on the estimated $7 billion mega-project when the House reconvenes next week.

President Obama has previously said he would delay a decision on support for that portion of the project from Alberta to Nebraska until 2013 in order to complete a comprehensive environmental analysis. He has since approved construction of the southern portion of the pipeline to run from Oklahoma to Texas.

Opponents of the project say the Keystone XL pipeline is an environmental crime in process, greatly inflates the number of expected jobs created and would actually raise prices at the pump further.

Critics from some surprising corners have challenged the GOP's contention that ramping up domestic production would make gas cheaper, among them Martin Wolf of London's Financial Timesaccording to a recent article in the money magazine Forbes. Wolf argues that the real reason behind the 13 percent spike in oil prices is a looming conflict between Israel and Iran. Furthermore, Wolf pointed out oil prices are set by the global markets not confined to U.S. borders. Wolf further argued that the U.S. — with its comparatively low stock of viable oil fields — does not set prices but merely accepts them.

"In 2010, the US produced 7.8 million barrels a day, 9 percent of the world’s supply. Unlike Saudi Arabia, the US lacks spare capacity: it is a price taker. Responding to his critics, Mr Obama said: 'We are drilling more. We are producing more, but the fact is, producing more oil at home isn’t enough to bring gas prices down overnight,'" Wolf wrote. "These remarks are correct, except for the last word. Producing more oil would have next to no effect on oil prices."

The best thing the U.S. can do to lower prices is reduce consumption, Wolf concluded. 

In the email, Kline contends that high gas prices are stalling a struggling economy and contends that a new Wall Street Journal report, which outlines what it says are Canadian leaders’ plans to “bypass” the United States for Asian markets, increases the pressure to move approval for the project forward. He blames Obama, not the world market, for high gas prices.

"In other words, energy and jobs that would have benefited American families and small businesses will now be shipped overseas – courtesy of the Obama administration."

His statement echoes a press release from the House Energy & Commerce Committee Republicans that states “In light of today’s news out of Canada, the urgency is greater now than ever.”

Kline also that beat the high gas price drum, as did Minnesota’s Sixth District Representative , continuing a growing theme among Republicans of spotlighting the bane of drivers everywhere while framing Obama’s Keystone XL resistance as an impediment to improvement.

Combined, the announcements help to solidify ‘pain at the pump’ as a Republican mantra leading up to the November elections.

The debate continues to rage, but it remains to be seen how such arguments may affect Kline's shot at reelection. Kline has been a runaway winner in the Second District, which includes Burnsville, since first being elected in 2002. The recent mandated redistricting has added some additional Democratic-leaning constituency to the voting rolls and their intent to seek their party’s nomination to run against Kline in hopes of reclaiming the seat.

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